CORRECTION: NoKota Packers adds Steve Johnson

NoKota Packers, Buxton, N.D., has hired Steve Johnson in sales. Previously, Johnson was at Grand Forks, N.D.-based Associated Potato Growers.

Due to a reporter's error, The Packer, on page E7 of its Nov. 7, 2011 print edition, incorrectly reported Johnson's employment update.

Associated Potato bolsters its sales staff

Grand Forks, N.D.-based Associated Potato Growers has added to its staff.

Salesman Jim LeQuire has been in the potato industry more than 35 years, said Paul Dolan, general manager, and has experience with the transportation and seed sides of the industry.

LeQuire comes to Associated Potato Growers from Central Produce Inc., West Fargo, N.D. He also has worked for Mike Layton Co. Inc., Moorhead, Minn.

The company also has added storage space to its Drayton, N.D., facility, and is adding a bagger to its Grand Forks facility.

“By doing that we should be able to keep up with shipments around the holidays,” Dolan said.

Bushmans’ to market under Market Fresh

Bushmans’ Inc. is working on a new bag for its Sierra Gold and Sierra Rose potatoes, looking to market the varieties under its Market Fresh brand. The Rosholt, Wis.-based company purchased Market Fresh Produce LLC, Nixa, Mo., in October 2010.

The acquisition of Market Fresh added sweet potatoes and onions to Bushmans’ core product lines. The new packaging for Sierra Gold and Sierra Rose potatoes should allow for cross-promotion with Market Fresh onions, said Mike Carter, chief executive officer.

Sierra Gold and Sierra Rose are co-owned by Bushmans’ and Discovery Garden’s, Oakdale, Calif.

The company also has a new sales office in Colorado’s San Louis Valley, staffed by salesman Mike Brothers.

“It adds value to our customers in the Southwest and gives us a foothold to working with Colorado growers,” Carter said.

Category Partners adds salesman, items

Category Partners, the Denver-based retail marketing and category development firm owned by Farm Fresh Direct, Monte Vista, Colo., and Wada Farms, Idaho Falls, Idaho, has expanded.

Brent Miller joined the company to work with retailers on the East Coast. Miller is based in Charlotte, N.C.

The company also expanded its service offerings outside of the potato category to include onions and sweet potatoes.

The company also doubled its Denver office facility and installed video conferencing capabilities.

Mac Johnson, chief executive officer, said the company has seen more interest in its services from retailers looking for help with consumer insights, promotional ideas, merchandising input and more.

DeBruyn Produce expands in Florida

After only a year in operation, Zeeland, Mich.-based DeBruyn Produce’s Florida packing house is expanding.

The facility in Pompano, Fla., started packing potatoes under DeBruyn’s Gim-me-mor label. Margret DeBruyn, chief executive officer, said the company stopped marketing potatoes years ago, but is trying again.

“We built the facility as a place to bring in Peruvian onions,” DeBruyn said. “Then we tripled in size in the first year just with onions.”

DeBruyn said the company is packing primarily red and white potatoes from multiple growing regions. It also added a drier system and expanded repacking capabilities in Pompano and LaVilla, Texas.

Idaho commission sets up in Idaho Falls

The Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission has a new office on the eastern side of the state.

Todd Cornelison, industry relations director, and Amanda Albers, international marketing manager, now operate out of an office in Idaho Falls, sharing the space with the Idaho Grower-Shippers Association.

Keystone Fruit plans to certify pungency

Greencastle, Pa.-based Keystone Fruit Marketing is participating in the National Onion Labs’ Pungency Plus program this year. The flavor certification program gives a more accurate measure of what consumers actually taste, said Marty Kamer, Keystone vice president.

“In the last 10 years many new varieties have been introduced which develop flavors that the pungency test does not adequately measure,” Kamer said. “In some cases one can obtain low pyruvic acid numbers but have onions with strong and often unpleasant flavors.”

The Pungency Plus program addresses those limitations by measuring heat, flavor strength, aftertaste and sweetness, Kamer said.

The company’s South American operations, Keyperu, have received Rainforest Alliance certification.

“We’ve worked very hard over the years to be environmentally friendly and socially responsible wherever we grow,” Kamer said. “We take great pride in our operations in Peru and the Rainforest Alliance certification.”

Potandon Produce names sales manager

Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Potandon Produce LLC has hired a sales manager and salesman.

“They have a combined 30 years experience in the industry,” said Jamey Higham, vice president of foodservice.

Surerus’ most recent position was as a salesman for Rigby Produce, Rigby, Idaho. Hess worked for Idaho Falls-based Kingston & Associates Marketing LLC.

The company has plans to pack potatoes in Pink Ribbon packaging this fall for breast cancer awareness.

Shuman Produce stays committed to charities

Shuman Produce, Reidsville, Ga., continues two of its philanthropic programs this fall.

The company plans to support the Susan G. Komen For a Cure through Pink Ribbon packaging, plus a corporate donation of $20,000, said John Shuman, president and director of sales.

Shuman Produce also continues to support Produce for Kids through partnerships and a campaign with retailers across the U.S. Shuman is the founder of the foundation, which raises funds for children’s charities and educates parents and children on the importance of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.

“All the funds raised during the fall campaign will directly benefit PBS Kids,” Shuman said.

More than $3.5 million has been raised through the program since its inception in 2002.

Specialty Potato touts nutrient density

Mountainside, N.J.-based Specialty Potato Alliance wants to talk about dirt.

The company is looking at ways to share more information about soil quality and how it contributes to nutrient density with the industry and consumers.

Richard Leibowitz, managing director, said the company would like to see FDA labeling that reflects nutrient density.

“The public is starting to become more aware of these things,” Leibowitz said. “They want to know where their food comes from and how it’s grown.”

Leibowitz said colored potatoes, which are the company’s focus, are more nutrient dense than white potatoes.

“Right now the nutrition label for a potato is based on a raw white potato,” Leibowitz said. “We need labels for white potatoes, one for yellow, one for red, etc.”

One of its founding members, Center, Colo.-based Rockey Farms, was recognized by the Rio Grande Watershed Association of Conservation Districts Farming Division as Conservationist of the Year.

Leibowitz said Specialty Potato Alliance is putting together a video that highlights Rockey Farms’ soil practices, and also participate in U.S. Department of Agriculture committees and other industry groups on related topics when it can.

Rockey Farms is also in the beginning stages of building a new facility, still working on nailing down a building site. The company expects to stay in or near Center, Colo.

Potato board joins holiday recipe promo

The Moses Lake-based Washington State Potato Commission is working with the Washington Beef Commission, Columbia Winery and retailer QFC in the Seattle area for a holiday recipe contest.

“We are not a brand, so it’s nice to work with a brand like Columbia Winery because people recognize those names,” said Karen Bonaudi, director of marketing and industry.

Two of the commission’s employees also had title changes this summer. Bonaudi’s title was updated, and Matt Harris became governmental affairs director.

Wilcox Fresh raises funds for PMA FIT

During the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2011 on Oct. 14-17, Wilcox Fresh raised more than $500 for the PMA’s Foundation for Industry Talent.

The company sampled potato bruschetta for $2 each at its booth.

Jim Richter, executive vice president of sales and marketing, started a three-year term on PMA FIT’s board of directors this fall.

Wisconsin growers offer tailgating contest

The Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association is working to keep enthusiasm for Wisconsin potatoes high through the fall and winter with a recipe contest. The association recently wrapped up its Tailgating recipe contest, and is using the winning recipe on retail tear pads with a photo and the recipe.

The association posted the winning recipes at