Potato Bytes 05.03.2022
News from the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association
Serving the potato industry in
North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota.
Additional Rain Sets Back Planting Even Further as the Wettest April on Record is in the Books

Overland Flooding Continues

Grand Forks shattered the old record for the wettest April on record receiving 6.49 inches of precipitation during the month. The old records was 5.28 inches set way back in 1896. The Red River in Grand Forks will crest this week for the third time this spring after two waves of heavy rain reversed falling river levels twice after the spring melt.
Hwy 5 looking east towards Cavalier, North Dakota.
Photo courtesy Kyle Gagner, Cavalier
Overland flooding and cold temperatures will lead to delayed planting for many crops and possibly even some prevented planting. The sun will finally make an appearance for several days this week before another threat of rain this weekend.

Because of all the flooding, NDSU Extension is offering guidance for famers and ranchers facing flooding.

NDSU Extension agricultural engineer Ken Hellevang says “Flooding can cause washouts and severe erosion. Be very careful in navigating during and after flooding.”

Hellevang advises farmers and ranchers take several key steps during and after flooding.

• Examine farm buildings for any movement from alignment.
• Test the water of any wells that have been flooded before using.
• Check grain bins for any stretching of bolt holes if the grain got wet.
• Watch for signs of flood-related diseases in livestock, such as lameness, fever, difficulty breathing, muscle contractions or swelling of the shoulders, chest, back, neck or throat.

Basement seepage is another common problem with saturated soil and flooding.

“Remove wet porous materials or dry completely within a couple days to limit mold growth,” says Hellevang. “Most carpets require airflow on both sides to adequately dry.”

Hellevang adds that a ground-fault circuit interrupter must be used with all electrical use in a wet environment to prevent electrocution.

“Finally, contact your insurance agent and document all damage,” says Hellevang.

Additional information on flood recovery is available by searching online for “NDSU Extension Disasters” or contacting your local NDSU Extension county office.
R.D. Offutt Farm Management Team with Nearly 1,000 Years of Service Kicks Off 2022 Growing Season

As R.D. Offutt Brooten Farm Manager Chris Strom surveys fields this cold, snowy April, he recalls many other growing seasons throughout his 29-year tenure that started the same way.
Strom is one member of the RDO Farm management team that is kicking off the 2022 growing season with nearly 1,000 cumulative years of service. From farm, regional and warehouse managers to agronomists and team leads, the average tenure of senior leaders working across 15 Midwest RDO and its partner farms is greater than 25 years.

Keith McGovern, President and 34-year member of R.D. Offutt Farms, said he is proud to have such long management tenure at the company that grows potatoes to be processed into french fries and other frozen products.

“Experience brings an advantage to understanding the complexities of farming,” McGovern said. “Our managers like Chris know each acre that we grow and have experienced a potato crop eight to 10 times on the same field. They understand the soil, subsoil and how water moves.”

Strom is one of three second-generation managers at RDO Farms, taking the reins after his father retired. While Strom knows the fields like the back of his hands, he relies on his team – and their expertise – to run a smooth operation.
“Our experience at the farm allows us to work well together to continually innovate, improve and adapt to changing conditions,” Strom said.

From agronomy to operations

Fifteen-year tenured agronomist William Mack has prepared for 2022’s growing season for months. He has poured over historical field information, analyzed soil testing data, reviewed crop history and yield results. He is tracking soil moisture data following last year’s drought and the winter’s precipitation.

“As we prepare for the 2022 crop, we look at each individual field as a team,” Mack said. “We discuss what varieties will thrive on which fields, what treatments are needed, how the crop has stored in the past, and any other situations we’ve encountered on a particular field.”

Mack’s experience at RDO Farms adds to the seven-member agronomy team’s overall tenure, which itself totals more than 100 collective years of service. Each farm has a dedicated agronomist who works closely with the farm management team throughout the growing season. Mack said as an agronomist, it’s hard to find another crop that provides the same degree of challenges year in and year out.

“There’s always something new to learn about growing potatoes,” Mack said. “From varying weather conditions and disease resistance, we balance agronomy with operations to produce and manage a successful crop.”

Getting potatoes to market

Long before the first seed potato is planted each spring, Regional Farm Finance Manager Clark Camilli is already thinking about harvest and selling potatoes to customers, and 2022 is no exception.

Following two seasons that were impacted by Covid-19 and current global events that are affecting the supply chain, Camilli spent the winter months talking with customers, fellow growers and industry organizations about seed, crop inputs and land rent costs.

“These discussions inform our negotiations on annual potato contracts, which include volume, variety, timing and price,” Camilli said.

Throughout the season, Camilli works closely with farm managers and the agronomy team on crop records to ensure contracts will be fulfilled. At the end of each season, Camilli coordinates financial meetings to evaluate results and make recommendations for the next crop. He said even though the cycle has proven repetitive during his 25-years of experience, every year is different.

“We’ve learned and documented so much over the years that as a management team, we are able to react to the uniqueness of each growing cycle – from rain, drought and disease, to volume, production and staffing,” Camilli said.

Family operation promotes longevity, opportunity for growth

According to Zippia, national resource leader in career information, 22 percent of farm managers stay in their jobs for more than 11 years; most farm managers – 25 percent – stay only one to two years.

McGovern credits the farm’s family culture and growth opportunities for the management team’s long tenure.

“Our farm started as a father and son operation, and remains family owned and operated today,” McGovern said. “We feel like a family because many of our team members are, in fact, also family members who’ve grown up on the farm and have been promoted into management positions.”

McGovern said farm managers typically start in entry level roles and grow into management positions through a combination of on-the-job training and development opportunities. Team members are provided with career path information and are encouraged to seek promotions throughout the company.

Heading into the 2022 growing season, McGovern said he’s eager to see what the season will bring, knowing there’s bound to be new challenges and opportunities, even for a team with decades of farming under its belt.

“We have one year of experience, 1000 different times,” McGovern said. “There are many variables in farming. Understanding data and using our experience to interpret that data is the art of farming.”
Potato Bytes Landmark Trivia

Last Week's Famous Landmark

Last week's Trivia landmark was the Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen Denmark. The four foot tall bronze statue has been a major tourist attraction since its unveiling in 1913.

It was identified correctly by Vicky Boyd, Brett Miller, Keith Bjorneby, Darcy Blazek, Dorothy Viker, Karen Radke, Randy Aarestad and Janet Knodel.
Name this Famous Landmark

Send your answer in by clicking on the red tab below.

All those answering correctly will be recognized in the next Potato Bytes.
Recipe of the Week

Creamy Potato Soup

  • Potato Type: Reds
  • Cuisine: American
  • Preparation Type: Boiled
  • Prep Time: 10 min.
  • Cook Time: 20min.
  • Servings: 3

A delicious and satisfying meal at only 330 calories!

From Rebecca Costa

Coming Events @ a Glance

May 21 - 24

June 16 - 17

July 21
  • NPPGA Golf Open - Grafton, ND

August 25

September 6 - 10