Matthews Ridgeview Farms has been packing on its new line for its second season in 2020. The all-automated electronic sizing line allows the company to expand its customer base and help existing customers boost sales, says Autumn Campbell, sales manager. ( Courtesy Matthews Ridgeview Farms )

There should be no gap between old crop and new crop sweet potato shipments in Arkansas, one leading marketer reports.

New crop harvest typically begins in July or August and usually continues into November. Sweet potatoes can be marketed from storage year-round.

The 2019 sweet potato crop has moved out in good fashion and the outlook for the 2020 crop is strong, said Autumn Campbell, sales manager for Matthews Ridgeview Farms, Wynne, Ark.

“Our storage crop looks great and our plants look beautiful; we do not foresee any issues with shortages or a gap,” she said May 12.

Campbell said the company has been “blessed” through the pandemic and has kept its team safe and healthy with appropriate precautions.

“We are proud to be a part of an industry that is so essential to our country and the entire world,” she said.

For the 2020 crop, planting season has been going great and plants look beautiful, Campbell said. 

“It’s warming up here in Arkansas and we are looking at a nice crop for this year,” she said. “We are growing every year and excited about it.”

Big footprint

The USDA does not report annual acreage numbers for Arkansas sweet potatoes.

The Census of Agriculture reported sweet potatoes accounted for 4,598 acres in 2017, or about 42% of total vegetable acreages. 2017 acreage was way up compared with 2012, when 2,410 acres of sweet potatoes were harvested.

The report said 75 operations grew sweet potatoes in 2017, up from just 17 in 2012.

The biggest sweet potato region is in Cross County in northeastern Arkansas, and Rick Wimberley, extension agent for the county, said growers there have been receiving big rains this spring.

While that may delay some planting, rains haven’t hurt the crop potential, he said. Wimberley said acreage in the county could be close to about 3,000 acres. 

Sweet potatoes represent the biggest part of Arkansas vegetable acreage.

The Census of Agriculture reported Arkansas growers harvested 11,062 acres of vegetables that year in 2017, nearly the same as 11,111 acres in 2012. 

The Census of Agriculture reported 748 operations in Arkansas harvested vegetable acreage in 2017, compared with 625 operations in 2012. The state does not report annual vegetable acreage reports; 2017 is the most recent year available.

Watermelons also are a big crop in Arkansas, according to USDA statistics, with 1,822 acres harvested in 2017, compared with 1,880 in 2012.

The Census of Agriculture reported tomatoes also ranked high, with 952 acres grown on 398 operations in 2017. That is down slightly compared with 2012, when 373 operations grew just over 1,100 ares of tomatoes in the state. 

2017 Arkansas vegetable and melon statistics:

Fresh market vegetables: 9,500 acres;

  • Sweet potatoes: 4,598 acres, 3,492 fresh market acres;
  • Watermelon: 1,822 acres;
  • Tomatoes: 952 acres;
  • Turnip greens: 734 acres;
  • Summer squash: 578 acres;
  • Snap beans: 403 acres, 107 fresh market acres;
  • Pumpkins: 363 acres;
  • Sweet corn: 341 acres;
  • Southern peas (cowpeas): 284 acres;
  • Bell peppers: 128 acres;
  • Lettuce: 100 acres;
  • Cucumbers: 118 acres;
  • Okra: 82 acres;
  • Mustard greens: 68 acres;
  • Cabbage: 64 acres;
  • Cantaloupes: 56 acres; and
  • Potatoes: 62 acres. 

 

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