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February 2006

February 2006
  • 101 Years of Okray Potatoes The governing philosophy at Okray Farms is slow, steady growth. And that's exactly what they've done over the last 100 years. What started as a small operation buying and selling produce in 1905 has grown to a family farm with more than 7,000 acres under cultivation.
  • Equipping Potato Growers They may no longer be growing potatoes, but the Ellises certainly are involved in the potato industry; Okray Farms Continues Tradition Started in 1905 on a world-wide basis.
  • Learning from Automakers
  • Potato Early Die For more than 30 years, potato growers have managed the chronic disease called potato early dying (or potato early die) with a chemical attack that ranges from relatively mild preventatives to complete fumigation.
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Okray Farms Continues Tradition Started in 1905

The governing philosophy at Okray Farms is slow, steady growth. And that’s exactly what they’ve done over the last 100 years. What started as a small operation buying and selling produce in 1905 has grown to a family farm with more than 7,000 acres under cultivation. One of the main crops for the family is fresh-market potatoes. They also grow sweet corn, green beans, soybeans and field corn. Dick Okray, secretary/treasurer for the company, said their main potato varieties are russets, reds, yellow-fleshed varieties, Superiors and white varieties. “Last year we experimented with some other varieties, one of them being German Butterball,” Okray said. “The sheds were very accepting. It’s one we’d consider doing again.” Though they stress that they aren’t big risk takers, Mike Finnessy, Dick and Jim Okray said they do try new things, and new varieties, as the market demands it. “It’s all a combination…  » Read more

Father, Son in Maine Design Potato Equipment

They may no longer be growing potatoes, but the Ellises certainly are involved in the potato industry – on a world-wide basis. Malcolm and Jaye Ellis, an Aroostook County, Maine, father and son pair, left raising potatoes in 1994 to concentrate on inventing, designing and manufacturing equipment to aid farmers with better production and harvesting methods. Mac, the father, of Ashland, eats, sleeps and dreams of mechanical devices to help potato growers with their farming problems. Often in the evening, his wife, Edna, will notice a certain expression come over his face. When she sees that expression, she asks “OK, what are you thinking of now?” Mac and Jaye raised potatoes in Ashland, Maine, until 1994. As they farmed, they also were designing and building equipment for themselves and other growers that would be added to harvesters and other farming equipment. “We were making money on…  » Read more

Learning from Automakers

Last month we asked growers what it would take to make supply and demand more equal. I am amazed – but not entirely surprised – by the results. Sixty-three percent of those who answered the question said that planting less is the way to achieve a more balanced marketplace. Only 24 percent responded that the potato industry needs to add value. And only 14 percent thought marketing should increase. In addition to those who answered our survey on the Web site, I received several responses from growers. And most of them answered that the industry needs to plant less. And after that statement followed more than one exclamation point. One grower responded that we need to look to the auto industry. “It would seem to me if one went back thru history of yields and plantings ,that the times of high prices are when there is…  » Read more

Healthy Soil Regimen Reduces Need for Chemical Attack

For more than 30 years, potato growers have managed the chronic disease called potato early dying (or potato early die) with a chemical attack that ranges from relatively mild preventatives to complete fumigation. “Even so, PED (potato early die) continues to be a persistent problem that continues to erode the economics of growing potatoes. Growers need alternatives to fumigation, but the solution is not likely to be in the form of another chemical.” That is the assessment of Ann MacGuidwin, the nematologist at the University of Wisconsin. She shared the podium at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO with George Bird, a Michigan State University nematologist. The two agree that, in the future, the chemical approach will be shared by – possibly totally replaced by – a regimen designed to improve soil quality and reduce PED to inconsequential levels. When will that future arrive? Growers…  » Read more
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