( File Photo )

Wisconsin potato growers predicted their entire industry should be digging in earnest by mid-August, although some spuds were on track to come out as early as the last week of July, suppliers said.

A mid-August “official start” would be slightly later than normal, due to “some challenges with sizing,” said Dana Radey, director of promotion, communication and consumer education with the Antigo-based Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association

Overall, though, it looks like a good crop, she said.

“The crop has been coming along well so far,” Rady said. “There has been a good amount of rain and the water table in the state is quite high.”

As a result of the sizing issue, the crop will be “slightly delayed,” with an anticipated start date of roughly the second week in August, Rady said.

“But that will not be full volume, as growers will ease into the market,” she said. “Some red vines have been killed in the state — mostly southern portion — while other growers are holding off a bit.”

Mid-August may be the official start date, but some growers expected to dig earlier.

“Wisconsin will have new crop reds and goldens by Aug. 1,” said Christine Lindner, national sales with Friesland, Wis.-based Alsum Farms & Produce Inc. 

“The market for the reds and goldens this summer has been very strong. Wisconsin will be able to provide quality new crop by early August at competitive prices that will allow retailers to run promotions on new crop potatoes during the latter half of the summer months and into fall.”

Alsum anticipated harvesting new-crop russets the week of Aug. 12, with new-crop fingerlings available for shipping the same date, Lindner said.

“Overall, we are anticipating a nice size profile and quality crop,” she said. “Alsum has been fortunate to avoid heavy rains despite other regions of the state being heavily impacted by strong storms in late July.”

Spring rains muddled planting schedules for Rosholt, Wis.-based Bushmans’ Inc., but the crop has been rapidly catching up during the summer, said Mike Carter, president.

“We had a difficult planting season, a difficult spring; it was wet, and it snowed late — all the things we didn’t want it to be,” he said. 

“We’re getting caught up, though. There probably was some drown-out, but the crop that’s left looks fantastic.”
Bushmans’ was expecting to start running its shed in the second week of August, which would be a normal start, Carter said.

“We’re looking at having russets in the next few weeks, which is what you’d expect, and reds and round whites are starting to come on,” he said.

Carter said the markets have been strong.

“I would say on russets, the market is very good right now, but I think it’s going to follow a pretty normal pattern,” he said in late July. 

“Reds, right now, are very difficult. There should be plenty by early August. The hard part in our business is the starting and stopping. It doesn’t come off at one time or rate. Right now, that’s our daily battle.”

Bushmans’ started harvesting reds and whites in the last week of July, with russets following in early August, Carter said.

A rainy spring brought challenges to Plover, Wis.-based Okray Family Farms Inc., as well, said Dick Okray, president.

“It’s been challenging with a little too much rain here and there, but we’ve had timely applications of fertilizers,” he said. “I think it will be fine. We just need good weather here on out.”

Okray said he expected a delay of about 10 days behind a normal starting date of Aug. 1.

“Some guys will start early but sacrifice yield to get into these good markets,” he said. 

“Right now, the market is healthy and getting healthier. We’ve been enjoying fairly decent pricing.”

Weather has affected the schedule at Bancroft, Wis.-based grower-shipper RPE Inc., as well, asid Samantha Cypher, editorial and publicity specialist.

“New crop potatoes are looking great in the Midwest. However, the weather has affected our timeline and we are a bit behind our typical schedule by about seven to 10 days,” she said. 

“We anticipate a similar market to that of last year. It is still too early to determine potato sizing. We are hopeful that we will have enough growing-degree days for the crop to reach maturity.” 

Dave Cofer, president of Antigo-based Farmers Potato Exchange Inc., had a similar story.

“It’s going to be maybe a week or 10 days later digging, but everything looks good,” he said.