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Ron Budd: Jersey potatoes planted ‘right on time’

WOODBURY, NJ -- New Jersey potato growers got their planting done “right on time, which is typically the last week in March,” Ron Budd, vice president of Gloucester County Packing Corp., told The Produce News Wednesday morning, May 8.

“And we’ve had excellent weather” since then, he added. “For the first time that I can ever remember, we have had potatoes out of the ground in April.” It is typically not until May that potatoes start to emerge, he noted.

Gloucester6358David Budd and Ron Budd of Gloucester County Packing Corp. in front of the company's new Giro automatic bagging machine. (Photo by Gordon M. Hochberg)As to the timing of the harvest, Budd offered these projections: white potatoes the week of July 15, red potatoes the week of July 22, yellow potatoes the week of July 29, and russet potatoes the week of Aug. 5.

He called those projected dates “a good ballpark [figure],” but “it might be a little earlier if the growing conditions continue as good as they have been.”

Gloucester County Packing Corp. does not grow any product itself, but its 45,000-square-foot facility here packs, distributes and handles potatoes and onions from all over the United States and beyond.

Asked about quality of the upcoming season’s Jersey potatoes, Budd replied, “Our growers continue to improve with their growing practices and varieties, and I would hope that this year will be as good or better than the previous season.”

Statewide acreage “might be down just a bit,” he said. “It’s now just under 2,000 acres for potatoes grown commercially for both the fresh and processing markets.” Over the last five years or so, the figure generally runs between 1,800 and 2,000 acres.

“We don’t have as many growers as we had five years ago, but our acreage has been able to remain stable,” he added.

New Jersey potatoes generally run from July through October, “and volume during that time period is very good,” he said. The Jersey Fresh program and the locally grown trend “help the strong volume in that time period.”

In addition to potatoes, Gloucester County Packing Corp. has an imported sweet onion deal, handling Peruvian onions from about September through February. It also handles onions from Texas and Mexico in March and April.

In October 2018, the company put in a new Giro automatic bagger specifically for onions.

Budd was also excited about the new website (JerseyFreshPotato.com) created by the New Jersey Potato Association. The site “is geared to New Jersey potatoes growers and packers,” and went live April 29 of this year. The association also created a Facebook page as well as Twitter and Instagram accounts.