Okray Family Farms Inc., located in Plover, WI, expects its potato volume to increase 10 percent this season when compared to 2011. The company has approximately 1,800 acres in potato production. “We grow principally Norkotah and Silverton russets, Red Norlands and Jelly and Augustas for yellows,” Corporate Secretary Richard Okray told The Produce News Aug. 20. “Okray Family Farms provides category management and replenishment to the retail sector. Very little of our product is used for foodservice or wholesale.”
Weather has not affected potato production this season. “Wisconsin weather, like most of the Midwest, has been bone dry all summer,” Mr. Okray commented. “We are blessed witha great aquifer, which has fed our 90 or so systems with adequate irrigation. Because we experience most of our quality problems when we have too much water, this year’s crop looks to be of excellent size and quality. The harvest began a couple of weeks ago and will wind up about October 15.”
Okray Family Farms markets potatoes primarily east of the Mississippi River. Some product is occasionally moved into Canada. According to Mr. Okray, transportation is always a challenge. “At last count, the Department of Transportation reported a severe shortage of licensed truck drivers in the United States,” he said. “This is apparent to all who ship goods, especially those of us in produce. Fresh food requires a rapid turnaround of inventory in our industry, and the trucking industry is an integral piece of that picture.”
Okray Family Farms offers a variety of packing options to meet customer demand. “Pack sizes continue to get smaller in response to smaller family size and increased consumer shopping frequency,” Mr. Okray stated. “Although pack sizes under three pounds are a small portion of sales, they are fast-growing, and their ring at the register speaks for itself.”
The company continues to make improvements to increase production efficiencies. “As always, we are committed to upgrading our farm and facilities on an ongoing basis,” Mr. Okray noted. “We have hired a new facilities manager, Mike Barker, to handle all storage and seed issues. He brings more than 20 years of experience in this field and is a fantastic addition.”
Mr. Okray’s niece, Gabrielle Okray, is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin. “Gabrielle joined our company this last spring,” Mr. Okray said. “She is working with food audits, food safety, forest crop management, website design and development, and promotion, to name a few.”
The company is also revamping its website with changes going live by the end of September. “It will [feature] a customer section including a live Spudcam to show customers the spuds we are running today,” he said. Recipes, consumer tips and general company information will also be available.