Goodness Grows In North Carolina
Potato Outline

Association Name Commodity History Regional Information Production
Packaging Shipping Buying Nutritional Information

I. Association Name: North Carolina Potato Association, Inc.

A. Commodity Represented
Potatoes; North Carolina produces over 18,500 acres of potatoes for commercial consumption valued at approximately 23 million. North Carolina also ranks about 17th in the nation in cash receipts for potatoes.

B. Types of Commodity
Round White Potatoes: This variety is an all-purpose potato that is round in shape with a pale beige skin. This potato is a cross between waxy and mealy and is often used to make chips. It's a good potato for frying, boiling and grating to make hash browns or potato pancakes. Some varieties are excellent bakers.

Red Skinned Potatoes or Round Reds: Often called "new potatoes", round reds have smooth red skins, a round shape and come in a variety of different sizes. Round reds can be as small as one- to two-inches, known as creamers. A waxy potato, round reds are good for boiling, steaming, roasting and pan-frying. They are great in salads.

Yellow Flesh Potatoes: Many feel this variety has a mild butter flavor. Their "buttery" flavor lends well to baking, mashing and roasting.

C. Is there a National Promotion Month for the Commodity? When?
February is potato lover's month.

Return to Menu

II. Commodity History

A. North Carolina Background
1. Is the crop originally from NC or did it originate elsewhere? Where?
The potato, native to the Peruvian Andes, was brought to Europe in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. Early in the 18th century the plant was introduced into North America.

2. When was it brought to NC?
The earliest authentic record of its cultivation in North America was dated 1719, at Londonderry, New Hampshire. Production in North Carolina probably began later in the 18th century.

3. How was it brought to NC and by whom?

4. Was it brought to a specific region? Is this the same region in which it is now mainly grown?
Yes, Northeastern North Carolina. Most of North Carolina's potatoes are grown in nine coastal counties: Beaufort, Camden, Carteret, Currituck, Hyde, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Tyrrell, and Washington.

B. Uses
1. How is the product used?
Potatoes are served baked, roasted, boiled, mashed, fried, creamed, and hashbrowned. They are used in salads, stews, soups, in pancakes and pastries. The variety of patoto salads is endless, either hot or cold.

2. Has today's use changed from its original use?
Instead of just fresh potatoes, today many are processed into french fries and potato chips.

3. If yes, how was it originally used and why was there a shift in use?
The shift is due to the increased use of "fast" foods and snack food demands.

C. Industry Changes
1. How has technology changed the industry? What are some of these improvements/changes?
Machinery has reduced the labor required for production. Refrigeration has helped lengthen the shelf life and make transportation easier.

2. How have the uses for the product changed over the years?
Potatoes have become a major commodity in the snack food industry.

3. Has consumption/use of the product increased/decreased? Why?
Potato consumption in the U.S. was formerly much larger than it is now. In 1910 the per capita consumption was 198 pounds. This decrease is not surprising since 80 years ago there were far fewer foods on the market than there are now and potatoes were a major staple of the diet.
In 1976 the per capita consumption of potatoes (both fresh and processed) was 125 pounds. In 1996 the per capita consumption of potatoes was 140 pounds. The main reason for the increase was the frozen and chip potato use increased.

D. Future Outlook
1. How is the industry changing currently?
The marketplace is changing by offering more processed types of goods such as the frozen and chip industries. In fact, 75% of North Carolina's potatoes are processed into potato chips.

2. Are there any future projects that would change how the industry is maintained?
The potato industry plans to meet the demands that the marketplace requires such as in the processed areas.
Return to Menu

III. Regional Information

A. Region
1. Where in the state is the commodity grown? (Mountains, Piedmont, Coast)?
Potatoes are grown in Northeastern North Carolina along the coast.

2. In which counties?
Most of the production is in the following nine coastal counties: Beaufort, Camden, Carteret, Currituck, Hyde, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Tyrrell and Washington.

3. Why can't it be grown in another section of the state? Or why the difference in production from area to area?
Climate is the main factor determining whether any region can be an important producer of potatoes. Potatoes grow best in Northeastern North Carolina due to the rich, sandy loam and high mineral type soils.

4. When is the growing season?
Potatoes are planted in March and harvested in June and July.

B. Climate
1. What kind of weather does the commodity like?
Springlike weather with periodic rainfalls.

2. Is there a specific condition the commodity needs (full sun, shade, etc.)?
Sunny spring conditions are most favorable for growth. Although growth and production of the potato are affected by light intensity, the crop is capable of utilizing relatively low light intensities for long durations.

3. Are there ideal temperatures the commodity needs?
Temperatures between 60 degrees F and 70 degrees F are ideal for good growing conditions.

C. Soil
1. What type of soil works best with this commodity? Why? Is it rich in a specific nutrient, etc.?
Rich, sandy loams and high mineral type soils.

2. Is there an ideal temperature for the soil?

3. Do certain soil conditions increase crop production? If yes, what are they?
Well plowed fields (soils mixed into fine particles) helps to increase crop yields.

D. Weather Conditions
1. In emergency weather conditions what precautions are taken? Are precautions usually preventative (advance) or reactive (as it occurs)?
Potatoes do not grow well with heavy rainfalls and fields should be drained of standing water.
Return to Menu

IV. Production

A. Production Steps
1. When are seeds planted?
Whole potatoes (seed potatoes) are cut into several peices and these "seed peices" are planted in early March.

2. What is the estimated time before sprouts appear?
Sprouts begin to appear from 1 to 2 weeks after planting.

3. How long generally before the crop is ready to be harvested?
It generally takes 100 days from the time the crop is planted until it is ready for harvest.

4. Once the crop is taken from the ground where does it go? Is it stored somewhere before it is ready for use? Or does it get packaged right away? If stored, what is it stored in and why?
Potatoes are generally shipped out the same day that they are dug from the ground at harvest.

B. Production Materials
1. Is there any special equipment used during the whole production process? What are they?
Special planters and diggers (harvesters) are used. Also special potato graders are needed to size and grade the potatoes.

2. How was the production process handled before technological developments? What types of machines, if any, were used in the process?
Potatoes were originally plowed out of the ground with a horse and plow. They were then picked up by hand and put into barrels or burlap sacks. They were transported to market by boats.

3. Are pesticides used in crop production?
Pesticides are used to control the Colorado Potato Beetle.

C. Grading
1. Is there an inspection that the product must go through before being packaged/sold?
Yes. All potatoes being shipped out of the country and all potatoes being shipped to fresh markets must be inspected.

2. Is the inspection conducted by county, state, or national officials?
State officials.

3. What agency is responsible for the grading/testing and setting the standards?
United States Department of Agriculture and the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

4. How is the grading done? Is it for each individual piece, or per field, per farm, etc.?
Each truckload of potatoes that requires an inspection is inspected on a per load basis.

5. Give a basic breakdown of the scale used and what it means.
U.S. NO.1 means that the potatoes meet the following requirements:
a) similar varietal characteristics
b) firm
c) fairly clean
d) fairly well shaped
e) free from freezing, blackheart, late blight, southern bacterial wilt, ring rot, and sort rot
f) not less than 1 7/8 inches in diameter, unless otherwise specified with grade.

Grade A means that the minimum diameter is 1 7/8 inches in diameter and in addition to the minimum size specified, a lot of potatoes designated as Size A shall contain at least 40 percent of potatoes which are 2 1/2 inches in diameter or larger.

Return to Menu

V. Packaging

A. Is the product usually sold fresh, frozen, dried, etc.?
All potatoes from NC are sold fresh.

B. If product is sold in a variety of ways what is the most common in NC?
All of North Carolina's potatoes are sold fresh and are used primarily two ways. 75% of NC potatoes are processed into potato chips. 25% of NC potatoes are sold as fresh.

C. Is the product packaged? If yes, how? (bags, boxes, bottles, etc)
Potatoes are packaged in 5 lb and 10 lb paper and poly bags. They are also sold in 50 lb and 100 lb sacks. They are also sold by the truckload loose (bulk).

D. Why is it done this way? Is it economical, prevents bruising, industry standard or for shipping purposes, etc.?
Potatoes are sold in small packages for the fresh markets and they are sold loose (in bulk loads) to the chip market.
Return to Menu

VI. Shipping

A. Distribution
1. What is the most common method of distribution in your industry?
Large truck and trailers.

2. Is the product sold mainly to retail, foodservice, wholesale, specialty outlets or a variety of outlets? What is the most common?
75% is sold to potato chip processors (Frito-Lay, Wise, Bon Ton, etc.)
25% is sold to large retail chain stores (Winn-Dixie, Food Lion, Bi-Lo, etc.)

3. Does the product go to one place, then another before ending up on a grocery store shelf or restaurant? If yes, where does it go?
North Carolina potatoes that are sold to chipping companies are shipped to various chipping plants where the potatoes are sliced and cooked. They are then packaged and shipped all over the country to be sold in retail stores. The potatoes that are sold to grocery chains as fresh potatoes are generally shipped to a central distribution center owned by the chain. The potatoes are then divided up and sent out to their stores.

4. Is the commodity exported? Domestically, internationally?
Approximately 1,200 truckloads of potatoes were shipped to Canada in 1996.

B. Transporting
1. How is the commodity normally transported (from farm to retail outlet)?
All potatoes are shipped from the farms by large truck and trailers.

2. Does the transportation vehicle require special features?
The trailers that carry the potatoes generally have a refrigeration system that keep the temperature around 42 degrees.

3. Have methods of transportation changed over the years? (Before automobiles, etc. how was it transported?) Or has method of transportation stayed the same? And if so, how is it done?
Potatoes from NC were first shipped by boats in the rivers and sounds of the northeastern part of the state. Later some potatoes were shipped by rail. Today potatoes are shipped by truck and trailer.
Return to Menu

VII. Buying

A. Product
1. What is the product used for? Are there different uses?
The potato is one of the most versatile vegetables grown in NC. They can be baked, boiled, fried, and chipped. There are hundreds of uses and ways to prepare potatoes.

2. When purchasing/inspecting the commodity (at the store) how do you know it is fresh?
All potatoes that say grown in NC are fresh because our potatoes are never stored.

3. Is there a trick to buying and finding ripe/fresh product? (Smell, thumping, shaking, color etc.)
Look for potatoes that are fairly clean, firm and smooth. Choose ones with regular shapes so there won't be too much wasted in peeling. Avoid potatoes that are wrinkled or have wilted skins, soft dark areas, cut surfaces or with a green appearance.

B. Labels
1. Is your product required to carry a label?
No, unless the product is being exported to Canada and then it must say US No. 1, produce of USA, and who it was grown and packed by.

2. Is there an industry standard for the label, or is it individualized for each company/producer/grower?
U.S. NO.1 is generally the standard, but each grower's bags are individualized.
Return to Menu

VIII. Nutritional Information

A. Food Pyramid
1. What group of the food pyramid does the commodity fall into?

2. Is there a recommended daily allowance of this? What is it?
Two to four

B. What nutrients are found in the commodity? How is this helpful?
Providing 40% of the recommended Daily Value for vitamin C-potatoes are also high in potassium and complex carbohydrates-the body's main source for fuel. Potatoes also have no fat or cholestoral and are very low in sodium. Also remember to eat potatoes with the peel'll not only save time, but you'll add extra fiber, vitamins and minerals to your favorite potato dish.
Return to Menu

Back to Teacher Commodity Page
AG's COOL Homepage

Other Links:
Official NCDA&CS Markets Potato Page