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The comeback kids: Good summer turning late potato planting into average crop

What started out with a late planting has turned out be a better season than many potato farming operators would have imagined. "Right now it looks just like an average crop," Perham Potato Farm Manager Peter Babler said last Thursday. The R.D. O...

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Two trucks transferred their loads to a conveyer at the same time at the R.D. Offutt potato barns one mile north of Ottertail. Brian Hansel/FOCUS

What started out with a late planting has turned out be a better season than many potato farming operators would have imagined.

"Right now it looks just like an average crop," Perham Potato Farm Manager Peter Babler said last Thursday.

The R.D. Offutt operation known as the Perham Potato Farm contains 4,800 acres of spuds this year. R.D. Offutt Farms grows more than 50,000 acres of potatoes each year.

"We started about 10 days later getting them in this year, but then the summer cooperated and they caught up like the corn and beans and all the crops," Babler said.

Despite the late planting season, Babler had his crews digging potatoes July 30-the earliest date he can ever remember being in the field. Those potatoes went straight to the factory to be turned into French Fries.

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The fall harvest got going about Sept. 7. Some tremendous heat prevented digging in the first week, Babler said but cooler weather in the second week put the harvest on track. Rain last Thursday put a damper on harvesting. Despite this setback, Babler said he spuds brought in from the fields looked good.

"At the moment our potatoes look good and healthy," Babler said.

While most farmers deal in bushels per acre, Babler said the potato harvest is gauged by 100 pound bags. This year local fields are yielding 440 to 500 bags per acre.

Babler started in the potato business in 1972 when he was just 11 years old. He has been with RDO full-time since 1999.

"The first week of October is normally when we get everything done. It's all weather-pending," Babler laughed. "Mother Nature controls that on us."

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It's potato harvesting season, and according to local growers, a late plant did not hamper the harvest. (Adobe Stock Art)

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