Potato Grower Interview
Hi everybody, I'm Ben Wenk of Three Springs Fruit Farm located just a little bit north of Biglerville, Pennsylvania.
And Three Springs Fruit Farm is a diversified farm growing on about 450 acres.
In addition to all of all of our tree fruit, we grow a lot of specially vegetables for farmer's markets all over the Mid-Atlantic; DC, Philadelphia, and Baltimore and here in our local community as well.
Today we are going to talk a little bit about plasticulture potatoes.
What are the benefits of potatoes to your operation? Well one of the big benefits for us is it it gives us something to fill our display with later in our market season so our marketing plan for the the potatoes is a hundred percent retail. We do seven farmer's markets a week and by the time you get that frost and a lot of our the vegetables are going away this is something that we can store very well and sell on in through the winter where we found new winter markets that run year-round and having the potatoes is something that's a big benefit us because it is something that stores well so it is a quality product that people are looking for the winter time for stews and such so it's been a real success for us.What are the challenges of growing potatoes? Well, some other challenges, certainly there's a a number of insects and diseases you have to contend with the main ones being blight is first one and certainly potato beetle, and potato leaf hopper, keeping those under control good crop of potatoes that dig well and you can store well because if you don't have something quality, its not going to store well. Again that's our main purpose and growing these things is not to have them in as new potatoes through the summer and in the fall but having a good quality product that gets cured and gets stored and is successful for us on and through, I believe we sold potatoes on in through April or May this year. What is your marketing plan for these potatoes? Again for us, it is something that is for us it's it's something that's a one hundred percent retail so we're growing these things for all our retail farmer's markets in the area with the idea that again you know in the months of August, September, and October we grow a lot of apples we still have tomatoes then fall squash kale and other winter greens broccoli. We have stuff we can offer our customers in those months without much difficulty, but without a greenhouse or any kind of season extension something like potatoes are really important for us to keep our markets going in through November, Christmas time, and December on in through the new year.
What other marketing options are available for potatoes? Well, certainly in terms table stock potatoes, we have a neighbor right up the road from us that does a lot of potatoes and he has been very successful with them at auction. So you can package them in boxes and sell them at your local produce auctions again if you're storing them well and are a quality potato, they will be very very successful auctions in through those winter months.
I don't know a whole lot about the chip stock industry but that's obviously a big deal in Pennsylvania. In a much larger scale you're looking at folks who would turn them into chips commercially and lot of the snack food companies in Pennsylvania are always looking for chip stock. Restaurant sales another great opportunity, if you grow very high quality potato and you can grow enough of them you can get some good quality restaurant customers if you can provide them with a steady source of potatoes that's something they're always going to be looking for and a lot of those chefs will actually love the opportunity to work with you on choosing varieties. When you build that relationship you can have a built-in market for specific varieties of potatoes to specific chefs for their specific purposes whether it is mashed, or baking, or for gratins or anything like that there is a potato for each of those specific uses.
Is there anything else you want to tell us about growing potatoes? One of the most important things that I've learned in growing potatoes on plastic, and this would go for potatoes any anyway you would want to grow them is find good, certified seed stock. You can buy seed potatoes a lot of places, hardware stores, little mom-and-pop places on the side the road, but if you can find a really good known provider of seed stock and there's plenty here in Pennsylvania and they're very easy to find with a little bit of investigation. Starting with good stock is one of the best things you can do and it's really the the biggest the biggest secret if you want to say that to our success in potatoes is to start with a good stock. I emplore everybody to look for the best stock you can find if they look like they're little suspect to plant they probably are, start with the good stuff and the rest take care of itself.