This section is from the book "The Potato: A Compilation of Information from Every Available Source", by Eugene H. Grubb, W. S. Guilford. Also available from Amazon: The Potato: A Compilation Of Information From Every Available Source.
The marketing of high-class farm products in attractive packages, to special trade is a department of agriculture that has a most promising future.
Farm marketing has been too much like other farm operations - slipshod and easy going - with little or no system. There has been too little care as to the quality of the product.
The demands of the market to be supplied should be the first consideration. If a white potato is the popular one - the best possible white potato of the size and shape desired should be grown - selecting to that type consistently each year - making a product that so much excels the bulk of the offerings that it always demands a premium. An instance of this is the Salinas Burbank on the Pacific coast and the Mt. Sopris Farm or Carbondale Peachblow on the Denver market and for the dining car trade. Both of these are products of exceptional quality, smooth, even, and good cookers, but the former is a long white potato, the latter round and red.
In the fruit trade, where selection and package have been given careful consideration by up-to-date growers in the western part of the United States, the marketing of all grades and sizes in the same package is no longer considered good business. The best and most select are packed in separate packages and often under separate brands. During the 70's, potatoes were shipped on boats and cars in bulk, now the crop is handled in bags, boxes and barrels.
It pays to sort the crop carefully - offering only sound, clean tubers for human consumption, feeding all refuse to stock. Then the sound, clean potatoes should be sorted as to size; large, medium and small for different requirements. Potatoes of uniform size cook most evenly. Each size should be put up in clean, new packages. Barrels and sacks are acceptable for the large users - hotels, restaurants and dining cars, but crates or cartons make attractive packages for the retail trade. It may not be good business on the part of the average purchaser of supplies for the household, but it is nevertheless doubtless true, that 75 per cent, of the potatoes consumed by city and town people, pass over the counter of the retail grocer in small lots. For such trade, five, ten, and fifteen pound cartons would be very attractive.
The potato for this high-class trade should be packed on the farm a short time only before being retailed, and go in an original sealed package to the consumer. There would be no bruising and the potato could go to the table free from disfigurement. This should bring the grower a considerable premium for his work.
Quality and flavor in the potato receives more attention in Europe than in the United States. The early crop can be lower in quality than any other because it is not kept so long. A low quality crop, however, causes a falling off in consumption, as in 1907. On the other hand, an increase in quality greatly increases consumption - the average per capita demands could be greatly increased by attention to this detail.
W. C. Brown Presiident of the New York Central Lines, says that since eating scientifically irrigation grown potatoes from Mt. Sopris Farm, where the moisture content supply is controlled, his family eat four times as many as when they got the ordinary run of the market. The same report has come from many other epicures.
Ninety per cent. of the potatoes used in hotels, dining cars and restaurants are pared. Economy in the cost of producing food of high quality for the table is a question that the modern chef and manager give the utmost consideration. For this reason his ideal potato would weigh fourteen to sixteen ounces, be smooth and even and was the smallest possible percentage in paring. Of course all cannot be this size, but the smaller ones are used for baking. The ideal potato would be a little smaller than the hotel man likes to pare, and would weigh twelve ounces, have smooth, clean skin, shallow eyes, smooth eyebrows that do not protrude, and as nearly as possible the shape and size of a turkey egg. Potatoes that weigh eight to sixteen ounces are those most highly valued for the best trade.
Several years ago, at the beginning of his dining car trade, the senior author of this book went to Mr. John F. Smart, superintendent of dining cars of the New York Central Railroad, with a sample of the smooth, even potatoes Mt. Sopris Farm produces. By actual demonstration he was able to show that these potatoes at double the prevailing market price, would make a saving because of their evenness and smaller percentage of waste in paring and preparing for the table. At least 20 per cent, of the total weight of ordinary potatoes was being thrown out the dining car windows as waste. This consisted of small, cut, diseased and rough potatoes.
The business of growing and marketing potatoes should not be unlike any other manufacturing enterprise, both the producing and the marketing are very important. A modern manufacturer would not think of sending a shipment of goods to a customer, a part of which shipment was culls and of no use - and expect to hold his trade. Yet the potato grower will sack for the consumer 10 to 25 per cent. of absolutely useless potatoes - cut, diseased, rotten and frozen - for the buyer to pay for and pay freight on and then discard.
At one time the farmer or grower of produce of all kinds held it to be good business to deceive the buyer. The best berries and apples were put on top - the culls beneath; rocks were weighed in loads of grain and bad eggs sold for fresh ones. The modern apple grower of the Northwest, markets train-loads of fruit of uniform quality, the apple in the centre of the box in the centre of a car being as good as any in the entire shipment. This practice has made money. Western apples often sell for more per one bushel box than Eastern apples per three bushel barrel. One reason for this is that the barrel is often faced at the top and bottom with good fruit and has the bottom filled with comparatively poor.