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The East Hampton Star. (East Hampton, N.Y.) 1885-current, October 20, 1977, Image 15

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Persistent link: http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83030960/1977-10-20/ed-1/seq-15/


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THE EAST HAMPTON STAR, EAST HAMPTON, N.Y., OCTOBER 20, 1977 FIFTEEN Shopping for Potatoes It’s not difficult to purchase a Long Island potato on the Island now but consumers may be paying the “hidden costs” of transporting the spuds from the Island to Metropolitan New York and New Jersey warehouses and back again, according to some farmers and potato specialists. Approximately 3,617 50,000-pound truckloads of potatoes, or 98 per cent of the Island’s crop, has been shipped off the Island for distribution throughout the East Coast and to Puerto Rico since harvesting began in July, according to Norman Schneider, a supervising in­ spector with the State Department of Agriculture. Some portion of the 18 per cent of the Long Island crop shipped to New Jersey and the 16 per cent of the crop sent to New York may come back for sale on the Island, Mr. Schneider said. Central Operation One large East Coast chain, A & P, for example, has recently centralized its operations so that all potatoes, even those bagged on Long Island, are shipped to a central warehouse in Montvale, N.J., before being distri­ buted on the Island, according to William Sanok of Cooperative Exten­ sion Service in Riverhead. Centralizing its distribution made it “cheaper for a chain to operate on a broad scale,” said Mr. Sanok, since “most of the produce a chain buys is from other areas anyway.” To “make an adjustment for one or two local crops,” he maintained, would be “diffi­ cult and costly.” John White Jr., a Sagaponack farm­ er, on the other hand, called such a distribution scheme “energy-intensive and wasteful,” adding that “in the long run as transportation costs get higher it will probably be cheaper for Long Island to produce and distribute its own food directly.” It now costs about 55 cents a hundredweight to ship to New York and 65 cents a hundred­ weight to ship to New Jersey. Easterns or Westerns At the East Hampton A & P store, Howard Dickinson, who works in the produce department, said warehouse potato shipments come in “as either Easterns or Westerns.” Rarely are bags labeled specifically, any more, as Long Island potatoes, he said. While he said he guessed the ten-pound bags labeled A & P Easterns might well have been bagged at one of the chain’s Long Island packing houses, he added they could also contain potatoes from elsewhere on the East Coast, as could the larger 20 -pound sacks of potatoes, bagged under another label. Early in October, ten-pound “East­ ern” bags were priced $1.09 and the 20 pounders, $1.99. Five pound bags of russet potatoes from Wisconsin, on the other hand, were selling for 89 cents and ten-pound bags, for $1.49. A & P’s prices were roughly com­ parable with those of other local markets, with the exception of some of the IGA stores, which buy directly from local farmers. However, potato prices at all of the markets fluctuate from week to week when “specials” are offered. At the Gristede’s market in East Hampton, for example, 20-pound bags of potatoes were on sale last week for $1.19. Idahos or Russets Both Mr. Dickinson and A1 Smith, the manager of the East Hampton Gristede’s store, said, however, that on a year-round basis, they sell 60 per cent Idahos or Western russet potatoes because the demand for them is greatest. Gristede’s buys 25 per cent Long Island Katahdins and 15 per cent Maine Katahdins, Florida reds and new potatoes. The A & P, on the other hand, buys about 40 per cent of what it calls Eastern potatoes, from Long Island, Maine, and other Eastern States, and a small number of red potatoes from Florida in the spring. Long Island’s are the best movers. Whenever I get them I sell them best,” said Edward Velez, the produce man­ ager at King Kullen in Bridgehampton. But Mr. Velez added that he had little say in what was shipped from the chain’s New York warehouse. On a year-round basis, he said, King Kullen sold 35 per cent each of Maine and Long Island potatoes and 30 percent Idaho potatoes. Varieties While there are at least six to eight varieties of potatoes grown on Long Island besides the Katahdin, which accounts for 65 per cent of the crop, produce managers, packers, and po­ tato experts agreed that the various kinds were distributed uniformly on the Island and elsewhere. Stores did not request specific kinds of potatoes, they said. Asked about the Long Island russet, which might be competitive with the Western russet, they said that its acreage had declined in recent years because in Long Island soil it tended to grow knobby and misshapen. It was not economical to grow, they maintained. Other Long Island varieties beside the Katahdin, or round white, and the russet, which is essentially a baking potato, include the Hudson, a nematode- resistant variety developed at Cor­ nell University; the Superior, which is harvested earliest in late July or early August; the Early Gem, also harvested in August; the Kennebec which stores well and is harvested later, and the Norgold, a russet type. The Russet-Burbank is the well-known russet whose acreage has declined in recent years. Prices Farmers are now being paid about $3 a hundred weight for loose potatoes and about $4 to $4.50 a hundred­ weight bagged or FOB. Local farm- stands are selling Long Island potatoes for between $2.75 and $3 for 50-pound sacks. “We could buy potatoes from our Connecticut warehouse. But why should we truck potatoes all the way from Connecticut if we can get them here and cheaper? With the price difference it makes sense to buy the local product,” commented Sharon Ling- wood, produce manager of the Bridge­ hampton IGA. Her store was selling weekly on average 30 five-pound bags of Western russets as compared to 50 ten-pound bags of Long Island potatoes since the season began, she said. Recently that IGA was charging 69 cents for ten- pound bags of Long Island potatoes purchased from a Water Mill farmer, and 99 cents for five-pound bags of russets. Prejudices “I only buy Maine potatoes in an emergency. Our customers are preju­ diced. They want the Long Island product. Also Maines don’t store as well, since they are often touched by an early frost,” said Lillian Conklin, produce manager of the Amagansett IGA. Mrs. Conklin said she buys on a year-round basis, 50 per cent Long Island, and 35 per cent Idaho potatoes, which are coming in this week. She also buys about 15 per cent California potatoes. The store sells Long Island potatoes purchased from a Bridgehampton farm­ er from late July or early August until April or May when it can no longer buy them because the farmer has to clean out his storehouse to prepare for a new crop. Also, she said, in about April or May the Long Island potato that is stored would start sprouting eyes. At that time, the IGA fills in with Maine potatoes which, harvested later, store a little longer. Eastern Shores When the Long Islands and Maines start to run low, the IGA buys what Mrs. Conklin called Eastern Shore potatoes, from Virginia and Maryland. They come in about the first of June, a full month or so ahead of the Superior, the early Long Islands. It supplements the early Long Islands with California potatoes, from late July or Early August until mid October when the Idaho potatoes start coming in, she said. Arnold Sacks, who operates potato packing houses in, among other places, Bridgehampton, Hampton Bays, Maine, Delaware, and Virginia, said that five per cent of his total sales are made to chain supermarkets on Long Island, 85 per cent are distributed elsewhere in the United States, and about ten per cent go for export to Puerto Rico. He said that about 65 per cent of what he packs are Katahdins and that of the other eight or so varieties of potatoes “not too many customers know one from another or stipulate what they want.” A major exporter, the New York Export Company of Water Mill and Yonkers, had until an Oct. 1 longshore­ men’s dock strike been shipping 95 per cent of its potatoes, or 18,000 to 20,000 hundredweight a week, to Puerto Rico. Standstill The strike, during which longshore­ men are refusing to load containerized shipments, had brought the Export Company’s business more or less to a standstill, said Zachary Schulman. Potatoes are shipped to Puerto Rico in large 35 to 40-foot containers. Asked about what percentage of the Long Island crop had been going to Puerto Rico until the strike he said about ten per cent. Last year Long Island was exporting about 21 per cent of what it produced. That figure, however, included a European market created by a drought there. The European demand, which helped farmers to market a bumper crop and does not exist this year is being replaced by increased orders from New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Vir­ ginia, and the South, according to Mr. Schneider. Susan Pollack E a s t H a m p t o n a t t h e C r o s s r o a d s A Question o f Leadership East Hampton is at the crossroads: Will it remain East Hampton or be lost in the surburban sprawl? It’s a question of leadership— of whether our next Supervisor will have the courage to stand up at the barricades and fight with whatever it takes to keep East Hampton East Hampton East Hampton is at the crossroads: Can we create employment for our new generations? Or must our young men and women pack up and leave? And for those who stay and try to find work— can we find the way to give them affordable housing? If we can’t, what kind of government are we? It’s a question of leadership— of new leadership, with new energy and new ideas. East Hampton is at the crossroads: One quarter of our people are retired on fixed incomes. Yet every year taxes go through the roof, systematically robbing them of the security they spent their lives working for. Can anything be done? Not by the same old gang! W e need a new Democratic majority on the Town Board, to vote No on runaway spending, and put the people’s interests first. East Hampton is at the crossroads: Do we go back down the road to yesterday’s outmoded non-solutions? Or do we take the road to new ideas? It’s up to you, on November 8. MARY ELLA RICHARD FOR SUPERVISOR. OUT FRONT ON THE ISSUES, ON TOP OF THE PROBLEMS. paid for by East Hampton Democrats, Box 415, East Hampton, N.Y.

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