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Bushmans’ expects more yellow potatoes in 2022

By
Keith Loria

It was way back in 1909 when Joseph L. Bushman found his American Dream by starting a potato growing operation in Wisconsin, taking advantage of the dark Wisconsin soils.

Today, his legacy lives on as Busman’s Inc., a farmer-owned potato producer and one of the longest continuing potato growing companies in the state — dealing in reds, whites, yellows and Russets, including norkotahs, silvertons, gold rush and caribou.

“The Bushman family started growing potatoes in this area more than 100 years ago,” said Mike Carter, CEO of the Rosholt, WI-based company. “Our company was founded in the 1970s. There are several branches off of the original beginnings, and the home farm continues to operate.”

He characterized this past summer as being “historic” as far as lack of available product, but he noted the industry is in recovery mode and Bushmans’ is well set up for the fall.

“Here in Wisconsin, I am anticipating an average crop considering the historical yield trends,” Carter said. “The growing season has been very good. It was a little bit of a late spring, but temperatures have been really good — nothing too terrible. Rains have been timely and we’ve been able to manage water well.”

Still, it’s only late August, and things need to stay like this until mid-October and harvest, but so-far, so-good, Carter said.
“The potato biz has been exciting lately,” Carter said. “There was definitely a point and time when the pipeline was below low, and so as we get into a new crop here, our challenge is to refill that pipeline and get the product back into the marketplace and on to the store shelves.”

Carter is on the board of Potatoes USA, so he is very up to date on the latest trends and data about the industry. From that, he shared that in 2022, there will be likely more yellows in the marketplace this year than reds.
“The customers have to realize that trends like that are happening,” he said.

Having been in the potato industry for so long, Bushmans’ understands the keys to success, and Carter noted that begins with providing a quality product at a fair price.

“Then there’s the service — if you can provide the customer on short notice, that’s huge,” Carter said. “In Wisconsin, generally speaking, we’re close to the population base, which definitely helps tremendously. Freight has been a huge challenge so the closer you can lineup product, those efficiencies help.”

Naturally, labor and higher prices are also big issues that the company is dealing with, but freight remains Bushmans’ biggest problem.

“The concern is what will happen when we get into our busy season in the fourth quarter,” Carter said. “We keep our trucks busy and happy. We try to take care of our freight guys as much as we can.”

To solve the labor challenges, the company turns to automation as much as it can, especially in the packing shed. But there are certain things machines can’t do, and Carter noted you have to keep your employees happy, too.

“This is a difficult time to be in ag, but it’s also an exciting time to be in ag,” Carter said. “We’ve learned over the last couple of years that people are revisiting the notion of cooking at home, and I think that’s important. Seismic cultural shifts have big implications so there are big opportunities for things like fresh potatoes. Our job is to have them available at good quality and a good price.”

 

Keith Loria

Keith Loria

About Keith Loria  |  email

A graduate of the University of Miami, Keith Loria is a D.C.-based award-winning journalist who has been writing for major publications for close to 20 years on topics as diverse as real estate, food and sports. He started his career with the Associated Press and has held high editorial positions at magazines aimed at healthcare, sports and technology. When not busy writing, he can be found enjoying time with his wife, Patricia, and two daughters, Jordan and Cassidy.

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