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Red River Valley ideal for potato growers

By
Keith Loria

The Northern Plains Potato Growers Association has been representing growers throughout northwest Minnesota and all of North Dakota for more than 75 years, advocating for more than 200 grower members and 250 associate members who mostly call the Red River Valley home.

The mission of the NPPGA is to promote profitability and unity of the potato growers of the two neighboring states through the development and promotion of quality potatoes and potato products.

Between the open plains of North Dakota and the forested lake country of northern Minnesota, the Red River Valley is one of the most fertile farming regions in the world thanks to its nutrient-rich black earth, watered by prairie rains instead of irrigation, making it ideal for potato farmers.

In fact, the first potatoes were planted near Pembina, ND during the 19th century and farmers have been perfecting potato growing ever since.

This year, across the Northern Plains Region, potatoes are grown on approximately 72,000 acres in North Dakota and 8,800 acres in Minnesota.

The Red River Valley is the largest red potato producing region in the U.S., and the area’s yellow potato crop is quickly growing, as production has increased more than 15 percent in the last 10 years, representing nearly 30 percent of the segment, according to the NPPGA.

Therefore, potato growers in the Red River Valley rely on the advice and news coming out of the NPPGA to continue being leaders in the industry.

There’s also a great deal of innovation happening in the Red River Valley, as growers work to overcome some of the challenges that the potato industry has faced in recent years, including labor issues, higher costs and weather challenges.

NoKota Packers, Inc., which exclusively packs potatoes from its approximately 2,500 acres in Buxton, ND, believes working in the Red River Valley adds to its success thanks to all it offers.

“Since our beginnings, we have been known as a company that provides the best spuds around,” said Carissa Olsen, president and CEO of the company. “Many people who have moved on—some even states away—still return to purchase potatoes whenever they are in the area. The people in the Red River Valley know a good thing when they see—and taste it.”

O.C. Schulz & Sons Inc., a family owned and operated business which has been growing potatoes in the Red River Valley for more than 50 years, understands that the potatoes coming from the ground are different than those growing elsewhere in the country.

“It is all about the soil,” said David Moquist, a partner in the Crystal, ND-based company. “It gives good red color with clear skin. And yellows generally have bright clear skin as well.”

As the only grower-owned cooperative in the Red River Valley, Associated Potato Growers, Inc., is the largest volume shipper of potatoes in the area, with 17 North Dakota and Minnesota farmers under its umbrella. The company credits its strong potato production to the outstanding farmers and the incredible land they get to work on year after year.

That’s a belief by all in the Red River Valley, as the region continues to turn out the best potatoes year after year.

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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