Want fresh potatoes from North Carolina? You better hurry up. For six weeks in summer the only place to get fresh white, yellow and red potatoes is North Carolina.
So as that season heads into full speed, we’re taking a look back at the North Carolina Potato Association’s annual meeting in Elizabeth City. NC in late May. It’s a jam-packed two-day event that kicks off each season with a gathering of buyers and growers in Elizabeth City, NC each year, a process that’s been going on for decades. The buyers get a chance to see what’s in the ground first-hand and the growers get a chance to pitch their crop.
Everybody gets a chance to mix and mingle at suppers and social hours, field tours to see the latest and greatest from North Carolina State University field trials, and even a golf tournament that’s no threat to The Masters (but fun for everybody).
The North Carolina Potato Association’s slogan is “Your Summer Potatoes” – the state ships as many as 17,000 acres of fresh potatoes from roughly mid-June through the end of July. About three-quarters of those go to chip manufacturers around North America, but North Carolina growers ship fresh table potatoes up and down the East Coast as far north as Nova Scotia.
By all accounts this year’s crop is well above average. This year most growers started digging around June 22. Once the harvest starts, it’s literally non-stop until the last potato is out of the ground and on the road.
Chairman and CEO Keith Masser of Sterman Masser, Inc. in Harrisburg, PA is a regular at the Elizabeth City gathering, attending since the late 1970s. He’s a former chairman of what’s now Potatoes USA in 1985 and in 2005 was president of the National Potato Council. He says the North Carolina crop this year “is the best I’ve seen it.”
Even Kam Quarles, VP of the national potato association, was on-hand to meet with NC potato growers and help support this year’s crop.
“We’re really the eyes and ears of the potato industry in DC,” Quarles said. “When our various state associations are having their meetings we want to get out to hear what folks are saying and what the issues are we need to be concentrating on.”