“We are very excited to finally have a Dublin Farms website,” David Hickman, vice president of Dublin Farms Inc. in Horntown, VA, told The Produce News. “It is expected to be up and running by June 15. The site was designed with our customer’s in mind. It will have daily photos of what we’re currently shipping, daily prices and our customers will have the ability to place their orders on the website.”
It is the first website the company has had, and Hickman said that the inspiration behind it was the many requests from the company’s customers to see what they are buying. Until now the company has been emailing photos of product to them.
“People want to visually see what they’re buying,” said Hickman. “And we felt this was the most efficient way to ensure that they can see our red, white and yellow potatoes. We encourage customers to visit us at www.dublinfarms.com.”
Hickman said that the company’s potato crop was planted between two and three weeks later than normal due to cool, wet weather. But since then the weather has been much more agreeable. The crop is catching up nicely and the quality looks good.
“We will start harvesting reds and whites on June 30, and yellows on July 4,” he said. “Fortunately other peak areas are running just as late as we are, especially in the Midwest, and particularly with reds. We don’t foresee an overlap being a problem.”
He added that the demand from Florida should be good for potato producers on the Eastern Shore because their stored crop will be about gone just as the Shore is starting.
Dublin Farms is a grower, shipper and packer of potatoes for the fresh market. The company also grows snap beans for processing, and grain crops like corn, soy beans and wheat for the poultry industry. It sells direct to retailers, including chainstores, and to wholesalers, repackers and brokers at terminal markets.
“We ship from Miami, Florida, to Montreal, Quebec,” said Hickman. “In the early part of the season we’re heaviest into Northeastern cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City, Boston” and Syracuse and Buffalo in New York. “When North Carolina and other Southern states stop shipping, we start moving potatoes in that direction.”
The company produces several varieties each of round white, redskin and yellow-flesh potatoes, with movement runs through the mid-August-in what Hickman said is a six-week deal. The company digs, packages and refrigerates its potatoes overnight prior to shipping.
Dublin Farms does not store its spring crop of potatoes. Hickman explained that areas that typically store are in the more northern states that dig in September. Potatoes produced in Virginia are harvested, packed, refrigerated to bring the temperature down to about 55 degrees and then shipped.
“This system extends the shelf life of the potatoes considerably,” said Hickman. “Potatoes that are harvested in July come out of the ground hot. Cooling them removes the moisture, and that’s what helps to extend the shelf life.”
Hickman said that the demand for Eastern Shore potatoes has been good, saying that, “Potato consumption is up. Consumers are more educated than ever on the high nutritional value, and the outstanding value for the money. The market is always ready for the new spring crop when it starts coming on.”
Dublin Farms has made numerous improvements in its packingline equipment in the past several years. In 2010 it was certified Good Agriculture Practices and it has recertified every year. In 2013 it will be certified under the new GAP harmonized audit.
“We have added 50-pound cartons to our line,” said Hickman. “Normally we pack in five- and 10-pound poly bags, and five to 50-pound paper bags. Our 2,000-pound totes go to repackers. Our five- and 10-pound poly premium bags are mesh for extra ventilation. Our potatoes carry the ‘Dublin Farms’ brand, and we also pack under private labels.”
Hickman’s grandfather started growing potatoes in 1870. The commodity has been part of Dublin Farms ever since. “My brother Phil and I started the current operation in 1974,” he said. “Today we send out 10 to 15 tractor-trailer loads per day during our season.”