The 2016 Grower Achievement Award Winner Looks For The Next Great Potato Variety

If you look up the definition of “success” in the dictionary, you’ll find words such as “accomplishment of a purpose” or “the attainment of profit.” What you don’t see are the faces of those who have lived up to what this word defines, such as the 2016 Grower Achievement AwardSM recipient, Tasteful Selections of Arvin, CA, and the man at the helm of the operation, Bob Bender.

American Vegetable Grower® magazine’s Grower Achievement Award, which is sponsored by AgroLiquid, was presented Sept. 13 at United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference in Washington, DC.

“For us, it has been a real adventure and it is an honor to be recognized in the industry for what we have accomplished,” Bender said.

A Sustainable Focus
A producer of specialty potatoes, Tasteful Selections is a vertically integrated operation that went out and found new markets, created an extensive variety development program, and constructed a $30 million, 200,000-square-foot state-of-the-art processing facility — all while focusing on sustainability.

Tasteful Selections produces potatoes sold in 15,000 stores in all 50 states, representing 35% of the specialty potato market. The operation also grows carrots, watermelon, and garlic on a total of 9,000 acres.

The operation is comprised of three owners: CSS Farms, Wysocki Farms/RPE, and Plover River Farms. Since the farm produced its first bag of potatoes in August 2010, it has experienced annual double-digit growth, Bender said.

“We are constantly looking for the next best potato that can be a proprietary variety for our company,” he says. “Some of the traits we look for are smooth skin finish, good taste, and the right texture. We also look for traits in the plants that are more disease resistant, drought tolerant, and a strong healthy vine.”

Lonny Smith, Senior Business Development Manager, AgroLiquid, said it is a great opportunity for AgroLiquid as a manufacturer of liquid plant nutrition to be able to recognize resourceful growers that go the extra mile.

“It is inspiring to see there are great innovators and that this industry is moving forward,” Smith said. “I think the benefit to AgroLiquid in honoring a recipient for the Grower Achievement Award is getting that pulse of the industry and knowing what growers are facing, where the industry is going, hearing about the challenges they face, how they deal with consumers, and how they grow their business.”

Going forward, Bender said Tasteful Selections already has an expansion in the works for its cold storage facility, will continue to work on the next great potato variety, and focus on convenience.

“Consumers have less time to prepare meals, so we are going to be seeing more fresh, convenient servings of [many food products],” Bender said. “The way we have set up our bags of potatoes, it takes just a few minutes to cook our product. For us, we will continue to look at offering consumers convenience.”

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