North Dakota’s 2018 potato shipping forecast is set at 23.7 million cwt, and Minnesota’s at 18.1 million; down 3 percent and 2 percent respectively from last year, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Harvested acres are estimated at 73,000 in North Dakota; down 1,000 acres from 2017, while Minnesota acres dropped to 43,000; down 2,500 from last year. Average yield in North Dakota is 325, down 5 cwt. from 2017, while Minnesota’s average yield is forecast at 420, up 15 cwt. per acre from last year.
The Red River Valley of Eastern North Dakota and Western Minnesota is the nation’s largest red potato growing and shipping region.
The Red River Valley is unlike anywhere else. A beautiful stretch of land between the rolling plains of North Dakota and the lakes and forests of Minnesota. It isn’t your traditional valley, it’s nestled on flat, fertile ground that follows the coils of the mighty Red River as it flows north from South Dakota to Canada.
The Red River Valley is the bottom of what was once Lake Agassiz, a massive glacial lake larger than even the mighty Great Lakes. As the huge glacier plowed over the land, it deposited a layer of silt, clay, sand and rock that slowly transformed into the valley’s rich soil, setting the area up to become one of the world’s most successful farming regions.
The soil is what sets the Red River Valley apart. The rich, dark soil is perfect for growing potatoes. While its black color is distinct, one truly gains an appreciation for the valley’s loam soil when they see it up close and handle it for themselves. This nutrient-rich dirt is the reason why Red River Valley potatoes taste so good.
The continental climate of this area is also a large part of why the Red River Valley produces the world’s best potatoes. Its growing season is short, lasting for only five months, but the growing days are long with as many as 16 hours of sunlight per day. The Red River Valley boasts a consistent dose of precipitation. With most crops watered by prairie rain instead of irrigation, potatoes from the Red River Valley are rich in flavor that only Mother Nature can provide.
With the Red River Valley’s uniquely ideal growing conditions, it’s easy to see why the potato was one of the first crops to be grown here. The first potatoes were planted near Pembina, North Dakota, during the 19th century and served as a valuable food source for fur traders. As settlements were established in the valley throughout the 1800s, the potato remained a mainstay vegetable. At the beginning of the 20th century, potatoes began to be produced commercially, with the first commercial planting done near Hoople, North Dakota. During WWII, the potato industry quickly expanded in the Red River Valley, as it built a reputation for its high-quality seed production and its red-skinned potatoes known as “Red River Valley Reds.”
Red River Valley potatoes – grossing about $2125 to Chicago.