CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS, Pa. — Potatoes roll down the grading line at considered one of Troyer Land Sources’s storage barns in northwest Pennsylvania on a November afternoon. These freshly cleaned potatoes are destined to turn into potato chips at Herr’s, one of many snack meals producers that put Pennsylvania on the map because the Snack Meals Capital of the US
Kevin Troyer stands on the finish of the road, getting the ultimate have a look at the potatoes earlier than they’re loaded right into a semi-trailer. It is a scene he is intimately aware of.
“I’ve a photograph on my telephone of me after I was 4 standing on the inspection line with my dad,” he mentioned.
The Troyer household is a part of the Pennsylvania Cooperative Potato Growers, which is celebrating its centennial this yr. Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding joined cooperative members, processors and others to acknowledge the accomplishment Nov. 1, on the Bender Potato Farm in Orrstown, Franklin County.
“Pennsylvania and potatoes go hand in hand,” Redding mentioned, on the occasion. “What would a Pennsylvania truthful be with out French fries, or the ‘Snack Capital of the US’ with out potato chips, or a Thanksgiving feast and not using a heap of butter, whipped mashed potatoes?”
The cooperative was chartered June 13, 1922 with 22 members, rising from an affiliation of potato growers. Nathan Tallman, president of the cooperative, mentioned forming a cooperative gave them safety by the Capper-Volstead Act and allowed the group the flexibility to speak about pricing and work collectively on advertising.
Through the heyday of the business, the cooperative constructed the Potato Metropolis Lodge, in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, in 1949 as a lodge and restaurant that served as a banquet middle and gathering place for the potato business and a trip spot for farm households, in response to tallman. The lodge closed in 2019.
There was additionally an experimental farm there, run by Ernest Nixon, the uncle of President Richard Nixon. Due to that household connection, Nixon, then a California senator, spoke on the Annual Pennsylvania Cooperative Potato Growers Banquet in 1952. That very same yr, the cooperative served its millionth baked potato to a buyer on the Pennsylvania Farm Present.
The cooperative’s meals sales space on the Farm Present continues to be a draw for attendees, serving hundreds of potato donuts, 12 tons of contemporary reduce fries and 6 tons of baked potatoes.
Pennsylvania has by no means been one of many prime producers of potatoes within the nation, nevertheless it is likely one of the prime states for snack meals manufacturing institutions, with 24 potato chip factories primarily based within the state.
The cooperative handles advertising and logistics for its members, which incorporates promoting potatoes to lots of these snack meals makers. There are 28 Pennsylvania growers within the cooperative that produce greater than 83,000 tons of potatoes annually. There are additionally various affiliate members from different states that assist fill contracts for potato yr spherical, Tallman mentioned.
The 2 foremost markets for potatoes in Pennsylvania are chipping potatoes and desk inventory, with barely extra acreage being dedicated to chipping potatoes, Tallman mentioned. Chipping potatoes turn into potato chips. Desk inventory is what’s bought to grocery shops and eating places.
Varieties that make good chips don’t work properly at house, Tallman mentioned.
“They’re meant to be fried, salted and seasoned,” he mentioned.
The season begins in February or March once they purchase licensed seed potatoes, mentioned Troyer, of Troyer Land Sources, in Waterford, Pennsylvania. He is a 3rd technology grower.
They begin planting in mid-late April, with the aim of ending by the tip of Could, Troyer mentioned. Harvest begins in September. Chipping potatoes have to be harvested early earlier than the bottom freezes or the composition of the potatoes may change, Troyer mentioned. Tallman mentioned most growers in Pennsylvania need to be completed harvesting for Halloween.
The gravelly, sandy soil round Erie County appears to be good for rising potatoes, nevertheless it’s extra than simply the soil. Troyer mentioned the cooler, cloudier climate close to Lake Erie additionally appears to provide the next gravity content material within the potato, which suggests it’s extra strong and has much less water. That is the best for chipping potatoes.
“If you fry the potatoes, you fry out the water and change it with oil,” Troyer mentioned. “When you’ve got extra solids, it prices much less in warmth and oil to cook dinner the chips. And it makes a more healthy chip since you’re utilizing much less oil.”
Troyer’s father Cletus and uncle Clifford opened their very own potato chip manufacturing unit, in Waterford, Pennsylvania in 1967. The household grew potatoes and made potato chips for the Troyer Farms model for a number of a long time. Kevin’s facet of the household left the potato chip manufacturing unit in 1984 to focus full-time on farming. The plant is now owned and operated by Shearer’s.
Most of what Troyer grows now’s chipping potatoes, however he does develop some varieties for desk inventory. Rising potatoes is a capital and land intensive operation. There’s a whole lot of specialised equipment concerned in any respect components of the method from planting to harvesting, in addition to buildings wanted to retailer potatoes till they’re able to be shipped.
Troyer mentioned he can retailer potatoes till the following rising season begins, however there’s often a leap in demand for chipping potatoes by way of the vacations and soccer season.
His fields are on a four-year rotation with corn and soybeans. He is discovered the longer he can rotate a discipline out of potatoes, the higher his potatoes develop when he crops them once more.
“When you’re arrange, it is fairly profitable,” he mentioned. “You may make extra money on much less acres than you’ll be able to on grain.”
(Reporter Rachel Wagoner will be reached at email@example.com or 724-201-1544.)
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