Monte Vista Potato Growers on Track

Published online: Jan 30, 2017 Kathleen Thomas Gaspar
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With a new facility and line running well, and with storage quality looking good, general manager Jason Tillman at Monte Vista Potato Growers (MVPG), a grower cooperative in Monte Vista, Colo., said his operation will run through the end of July and perhaps get a bit of an earlier start next September.

“The season overall is going all right, but we’ve seen movement slow down a bit after the holidays,” says Tillman. “There’s generally a slowdown this time of year, and we’re still going to hit our schedule pretty easily. One thing we are concerned about is the increase in Colorado’s minimum wage.”

Colorado is one of 21 states to see an increase in minimum wages go into effect this year, and it’s one of the highest, going from $8.31 to $9.30 per hour in 2017 and increasing each year until maxing at $12 per hour in 2020.

“It’s already hit hard, and what it will cause is more automation,” Tillman said. “Eventually, we’ll go to more automatic stacking and racking. We have to; machines don’t need a day off or workman’s comp. Hopefully minimum wage will be increased nationally so Colorado can compete in the marketplace.”

Last season MVPG saw construction of a 15,000-square-foot warehouse and the utilization of a new line.

“The new facility is running good,” Tillman says. “We have the capability and are filling our orders. Everything is working really well.”

Tillman says the 2016 crop was average sized. Some of the grower cooperative had added organic Canela Russets, yellows and reds to their lineups, with White Rock Specialties in Mosca, Colo., shipping the certified product.

The conventional production split was 70 percent russets, 25 percent yellows and 5 percent reds. The Monte Vista facility can provide a full range of packing sizes. Tillman says the shed has two automated AgPak Celox sizer/sorters and the capability to do specialty packs.

A large percentage of the volume goes to Mexican receivers inside the 26-kilometer buffer zone where potato imports from the U.S. are accepted, and Tillman has expressed optimism that segment of his business will continue to grow.

 

Source: The Produce News