Another shipping season has come to an end. Normally humming with the din of machinery, forklifts and conveyor belts, the inside of the great white packing shed is all but silent. Except for the comings and goings of spud trucks hauling chipping potato seed to the fields and the haying equipment parked in the field, the driveway is all but empty.
How long did shipping last this season? On July 12th (2016), we started shipping potatoes from Boardman, OR, which lasted up until August 25th. As shipping from up north slowed, we fired up our processing plant on August 23rd. If you think about the timing, that’s when we started potato harvest, not to mention we likely had alfalfa being bailed and grain being cut as well. As you can see, then end of August tends to be an incredibly busy time of year for us! Though, it was only slightly less busy when we stopped shipping on May 16th – spring farming was well under way with planting grain and chipping potatoes as well as getting ready for our first cutting of alfalfa hay.
In that time, we shipped chipping potatoes to customers in Arizona, California, Oregon and Nevada. When we mention we’re an international company, we’re not kidding. Last shipping season we sent spuds to Costa Rica, Guatemala, South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines and Japan. We also crossed the 500 days with no time-loss injuries in the packing shed, which in and of itself is impressive as well!
It’s pretty amazing to consider how many chipping potatoes passed through our plant, the places they were shipped to and the things that happened around the shed in those 10 months. While looking into those details can be fun, there’s a story behind them that isn’t often told.
Starting with the first faces you see in our front office and the spud truck drivers getting the chipping potatoes from the cellars to our shed to the crews sorting, packaging and loading them, there’s
a lot of diligent, hardworking people behind the scenes that help make Gold Dust look good. For example, for a packing shed to efficiently and effectively run for 10 months, it requires someone making sure our equipment is in good shape and repairs, when needed, are performed as quickly as possible. According to plant manager Matt Thompson, the only days the shed was shut down were on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. There were zero down days due to mechanical issues, which if you look around our shed and see how much equipment there is, that’s incredible!
To get the chipping potatoes into the shed, you have to have a cellar crew that loads our spud trucks, plus all of the drivers that haul the chippers from storage to the plant. Once they arrive at our plant, there are people making sure the potatoes are cleaned to the customers’ requirements, not to mention the crews on the lines that are manually inspecting potatoes for defects that are occasionally missed by our sorting equipment. After the potatoes are sorted there’s another crew that packages them and then loads them in the trucks.
As you can see, it takes a lot of people just to get the potatoes from the cellars to the trucks – but we’re still not done! In the front office, our staff not only greets customers and answers the phones, but they also weigh the potato trucks before they unload. We also have employees who help broker the loads and, if needed, help work on the arrangements to get the orders loaded onto boats headed overseas and deal with the various customs laws abroad. It also requires diligent people to make sure the orders as well as the freight are billed correctly. Not to mention quality control people to make sure our chipping potatoes are meeting our high standards, a human resources department to make sure our employees’ concerns are met, and people making sure our employees get paid on time as well as our growers and vendors.
We also have the marketing team which not only tries to increase sales but also give our customers the service and attention they deserve. And last, but certainly not least, is the management team that makes sure all of the work gets done so we can continue to grow and ship chipping potatoes!
Speaking of growing potatoes, we also have to give credit to the farm crews who put in the long hours during planting season and harvest as well as watch over our fields during the growing season to make sure they’re getting the right amount of water and the pests aren’t hindering growth. If Walker Farms’ crews didn’t work hard growing an amazing crop of conventional and organic chipping potatoes, frankly we wouldn’t be here.
Sometimes in agriculture, we take for granted how many people and hours it takes to produce a crop. Too often the thought of farming is condensed down to a simple image of a guy on a tractor. There is some truth in that icon – it does take a guy (or gal) on a tractor to get the crop in the ground and out again. But it also takes a lot of other people doing their job – in the office, in the shed, in the truck, in the cellars – to help feed America and the world. And as we reflect on the end of shipping season, we feel we need to give all the hard workers in our shed, offices and on our farm the credit they deserve. We’ve said it many times, but it’s still true: We have the best crews in the Basin, and if it wasn’t for their attention, dedication and determined employees, we wouldn’t be here.
Thank you to everyone for their time and commitment to Gold Dust and Walker Farms. And here’s to a great growing season!