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Epic's Colorado spuds ‘look really good’

By
Kathleen Thomas Gaspar

Coming off the 2020-21 shipping season that was largely shaped by COVID-19, Phoenix, CO-based Epic Produce Sales Owner Art Miller said flexibility is key to the current Colorado potato season.

epic
Epic Produce Sales Owner Art
Miller with his wife, Tatum, their
daughter, Emma, and pooch,
Charlie.

Miller said in mid-August, ahead of the San Luis Valley spud harvest, that this year’s crop “looks really good.” Growers have contended with a range of weather conditions that have included hail and reduced sunlight due to smoke from Western U.S. fires, but, Miller said, “The stuff being brought in looks good.”

He said, “We could see lighter yields because there was a hailstorm that damaged some of the crop.” He added that growers had to “make a solid game plan with all the prices going up, but overall, we have a good crop with mostly Canela, Centennial and Norkota Russet varieties.”

Miller works with several San Luis Valley growers, and a significant portion of his volume is exported to Mexico. Peter Jurado is Epic’s vice president of export sales, and Miller said while the possibility of opening the interior of the country remains in limbo, the 26-kilometer zone continues to be a solid market for Colorado potatoes.

Epic also sells heavy to retail, with that marketplace increasing after the pandemic shutdown much of the nation’s foodservice industry in 2020. 

Year 2020 was “different for everything,” Miller said. “Potato-wise, there was a big shift to retail, and we also saw the Farmers to Families Food Box Program take a lot of product off the market. It helped the growers, and thankfully consumption of potatoes stayed about the same.”

He continued, “Our marketing plan was blown out the window, and we just focused on that retail. There was a big jump [in movement] with kids staying home from school, families eating together and food staples like onions and potatoes keeping their staying power.”

Miller said the company and its Colorado shippers are dealing with the universal issues of transportation, which he said, “has been awful,” and rising costs of inputs and materials.

“A lot of companies have trucks ready to go, but there aren’t enough drivers,” he said. “And the cost of everything has gone up. Pallets have gone crazy, and I don’t know any company that is not affected.”

Like the entire produce industry, Miller said, “We’re hoping for the best and just keep moving along.”

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