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With many shipping points, Wada Farms has sweet potato availability coast to coast

Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC in Idaho Falls, ID, has been in the potato and onion business since 1943 and diversified into sweet potatoes about seven years ago. Since that time, the company’s sweet potato operations, which started with one or two people on the ground in North Carolina, has expanded significantly, with grower relationships and shipping points throughout the Southeast and on the West Coast

“North Carolina is the heart and soul of the sweet potato industry” and is also the heart of the Wada Farms sweet potato operation, “because of the sheer size and market share and volume that they produce out there,” Wada Farms marketing director Eric Beck told The Produce News Sept. 19 in a conference call that included Wada’s director of sweet potato sales, Norman Brown, in Raleigh, NC..

“We are very proud to represent North Carolina and the sweet potato commodity that it produces,” Beck said. “Norman is our boots on the ground and our director over sales and grower relationships over there on the East Coast,” overseeing a team of Wada employees.

Wada-Farms-3---labelsWada Farms sweet potatoes in the Dole and Wada Farms labels.But in addition, “we have a very diverse growers network throughout the Southwest and also on the West Coast,” primarily in California, he added.

The relationships and partnerships Wada Farms has developed with growers on both coasts “allow for us to provide our buyers with a diversity of shipping points that best meet their needs,” Beck said. “So we are pretty much a coast-to-coast sweet potato shipper.”

According to Brown, “the main variety [grown] here is the Covington,” an orange-skinned, orange-flesh variety. In addition, “we have the varietals,” including white varieties and purple varieties, including the Japanese Murasaki variety which is purple on the outside and white inside, Brown explained.

On the West Coast, Covington is also the main variety, Beck said. But “we do have some Murasakis” as well as a few other varieties such as the white O’Henry and the red Diane.

In North Carolina, the 2017 harvest got under way the end of August and was in full swing following Labor Day. By then, everyone had started, and “we are in full harvest over here.” The harvest will continue “until first frost,” Brown said. “Everyone likes to be finished harvesting by the end of October, but depending on the size of the crop and the yields, sometimes it takes a couple of weeks into November.” Shipping will continue year-round.

The crop looks excellent, he said. It was “a perfect growing season. We had plenty of moisture, plenty of heat, the yields look really good,” a little above average, and quality is “just fantastic. I’ve never seen the quality in North Carolina that we have this year…. The color is good. They look great.”

The harvest in California started a bit earlier. “In California, they usually start harvest the first part of August,” said Beck. “They will run probably till the end of October or the first part of November. The crop there is looking very good in color and size.” California has also had “ideal growing conditions,” he added. “We’re looking to have a very good West Coast supply this year.”

Wada Farms markets its sweet potatoes under the “Wada Farms” and “Dole” labels.