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Published December 24, 2012, 08:30 AM

Red River spuds

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — Reds have always been important in the region’s spud industry, says Chuck Gunnerson, president and chief executive officer of the Northern Plains Potato Growers, based in East Grand Forks, Minn.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — Reds have always been important in the region’s spud industry, says Chuck Gunnerson, president and chief executive officer of the Northern Plains Potato Growers, based in East Grand Forks, Minn.

Reds have been a signature potato for the region since the 1940s and 1950s and saw an expansion in the 1960s with wash plants. Reds have primarily focused on the fresh and seed markets, and eventually added chipping and processed potatoes.

The red potato is an all-purpose potato, Gunnerson says, a premium product for boiling, baking and frying.

Today, it’s considered almost a specialty potato, Gunnerson says. Only 4 percent of U.S. acres are grown to reds, but the category is increasing.

“Consumers have enjoyed the taste and texture of red potatoes and are buying more each year,” Gunnerson says. “We’re not seeing our acreage going up. That’s stable or declining, but we’re seeing yields go up substantially.” He says that’s due to technology — increased fertility, disease and insect management.

In the Red River Valley about 18 percent of the potato acres are reds, and it is the largest red potato producing area in the United States. Some other areas of the country are trying to produce red potatoes under irrigation, but are still looking for a variety that will store well and retain the bright color that is available on nonirrigated, dark, rich soils in the valley.

Red River Valley red potato producers are in the process of incorporating a new logo that was launched by the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association on Aug. 7. Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director for the association, led the development of the logo to replace a triangular logo.

The new design graphically represents the Red River Valley by splitting two potato fields on flat terrain. One side represents North Dakota and the other Minnesota. The colors used are also symbolic. The dirt between the potato rows is black to symbolize the rich, black loam soil in the Red River Valley. The words “Red River Valley Potatoes” are a majestic red color to represent the color of the Red River Valley’s famous red potatoes. Finally, the phrase “Nature’s Flavor” was added to let consumers know that the potatoes taste better because of the unique soil and climate of the Red River Valley.

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