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Third generation builds on potato legacy at Lenz Family Farms

With 110 family members now following his commitment to integrity and a strong work ethic, George Lenz left a lasting legacy to the three-generation potato growing and shipping operation in northeastern Colorado.

Lenz, who died in the fall of 2013, saw his four sons and four of their children become the managing partners of Lenz Family Farms, and Rod Lenz, potato operations manager, said the company’s business plan remains that of his father.rod-lenz2Rod Lenz, potato operations manager for Lenz Family Farms in northeastern Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Lenz Family Farms)

“We work to stay current with food-safety issues, to provide excellent service to our customers and to produce the highest quality potatoes,” Lenz said in early January.

The operation grows and ships primarily gold spuds from its own 700 acres and also packs and ships from 1,300 additional acres located in Nebraska.

Lenz said russet Norkotahs are also grown for both fresh market and process.

Northern Colorado’s potato season is somewhat earlier than that of the San Luis Valley, with the Lenz acreage planted starting March 20. Harvest will commence in early August, he said.

Although much of Colorado has been affected by severe water shortages and state-imposed restrictions, Lenz Family Farms said its supplies are not threatened by well shut-offs that have hampered operations for other northern Colorado growers.

“We are in the depleting Ogallala Aquifer, but we operate our pipeline in accordance with compacts with Nebraska and Kansas, and we have adequate water for the near term,” Lenz said.

The operation packs Colorado potatoes at the Lenz shed located between Wray and Holyoke, and Lenz said, “We pack with Frenchman Valley Produce out of Imperial [Nebraska].”

The home shed has 150,000 hundredweight storage, and the Nebraska joint operation facility provides storage for 500,000 hundredweight.

Third-party certifications are USDA, GAP, GHP and GlobalGAP, and Lenz said regulations continue to be “more and more involved for traceback.”

The majority of Lenz spuds are shipped in one-ton totes for repackers, and Lenz said sales are nationwide, with loads going to the South, Great Lakes and Midwest. Some potatoes are shipped to Canadian receivers, he added.

“We don’t do much direct retail but would like to do more,” he said. “Currently most of our product goes through repackers.”