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Family is key to success for Topashaw Farms

With more than 30 years of growing sweet potatoes in Vardaman, MS, the family-owned and operated Topashaw Farms is one of the Mississippi’s top producers of the Beauregard variety of sweet potatoes.

“We plant and harvest approximately 4,500 acres annually. It is never our intention to be the biggest, but we strive daily to be the best,” said Joe Edmondson, owner and operator of Topashaw Farms. “Success is achieved by listening to what is desired from the customer, paying close attention to detail and pressing forward until getting it right.”

Joined by his wife Melissa, there are three generations on the farm, with everyone — including three children and six grandchildren — working hands on, learning all aspects of the business.

IMG 2197 Because consumers are becoming more knowledgeable of the health benefits of sweet potatoes and the realization that they are not just a “holiday food,” the company is seeing growth in sales of both the microwavable sweet potatoes and its No. 3 bags.

“These seem to make it a bit easier to shop for those on a budget,” Edmondson said. “Especially because these items are generally sold at a flat cost, it’s less time consuming and there is less handling of the product by other consumers.”

So far, things are looking solid for a strong 2018 sweet potato season. Of course, with hurricane season just starting, it’s always hard to predict the outcome of the crop, but as of mid-September, even with Hurricane Florence having blown through, expectations were still good for a favorable harvest.

Currently, Topashaw Farms offers 40-pound boxes, 3-pound boxes and micro sweeties. Each box is a different color and each represents different sizing and grade of sweet potatoes.

Topashaw Farms uses two Kerian mechanical sizers, offering the capability to grade multiple sizes at one time. Additionally, the sweet potatoes are handled only once, protecting quality.

“The biggest challenge is by far the labor issue. Right now, labor is a day-to-day and year-to-year challenge in finding good laborers,” Edmondson said. “Another challenge is the rising cost of freight due to the e-log mandate. Planning ahead and knowing your customer and carrier base helps tremendously in keeping freight cost minimal, although it is still a battle.”

The company’s storage capacity for sweet potatoes is at around 3 million bushels, with 1.3 million bushels stored in automated temperature controlled units with each having curing capabilities if needed.

“Educating the consumer plays a major role in the movement of sweet potatoes,” Edmondson said. “Drawing attention to not only the health benefits, but also the many different ways that a sweet potato can be implemented into meals is another boost in the movement.”