Colorado potato plantings are up about 8% this year, to 54,200 acres, as worries about water availability in the San Luis Valley, where the bulk of the state’s crop is grown, were wiped away by a big snowpack.
“This year prices are a little better and our water situation is a lot better,” Jim Ehrlich, executive director for the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, said in mid-July. “I guess growers felt like they needed to plant more potatoes.”
Most plantings are done in late April and early May, Ehrlich said, with harvesting in September and October.
“We’ve had really good growing conditions,” he said. “We’ve gotten a bit of severe weather, some hail, but for the most part the crop looks good.”
Greeley, Colo.-based Martin Produce Co. planned to start potatoes Aug. 7, said Chuck Bird, partner. The grower-shipper, which is also in the onion business, offers primarily russets. Bird anticipates volume about equal to 2013.
“We’ve had timely rains and couldn’t ask for better growing conditions,” he said. “Tonnage should be very good, like last year’s big crop.” Houston-based MountainKing markets Martin Produce potatoes.
Fagerberg Produce, Eaton, Colo., planned to start onions — sweet, yellow and red — Aug. 4, with white onions arriving a week later, said Alan Kinoshita, sales manager.
That’s after the more traditional late July start, but better than last year when the deal started a month late.
“So far we’ve been lucky, missing severe weather,” Kinoshita said July 21. Storms and flooding last year made it impossible to harvest more than 60% of the crop.
“This year we haven’t lost anything plus we picked up a couple of growers,” he said. “We anticipate harvesting 250 acres or so more than we’ve had in the last few years.”
Destructive as last fall’s flooding was, it at least helped replenish reservoirs. So did winter storms.
“Depending on where you were in the mountains, snowpack was as high as 130% to 150% of normal,” Kinoshita said. “So water is not an issue this year.”
The first crops will be from transplants and run six to eight weeks. In September, Fagerberg Produce will transition to its direct seeded onions. The last of those will be harvested in mid- to late September for storage.
Bob Sakata, owner of Sakata Farms, Brighton, Colo., expects to start white, red and yellow onions right after Labor Day.
“It’s a beautiful crop, all fresh market,” he said.
While its onion acreage is steady, Sakata Farms has cut back on corn.
“We’ll be probably 75% of last year,” Sakata said July 21. “The oil boom in northern Colorado has really made labor short. Demand for oil field workers has really increased and the (federal) H-2A program is so cumbersome we couldn’t get those workers in time.”