Potato growing is in the Fortune’s blood

25 Nov , 2015  

Kilmore Potatoes Ltd is a third generation family business that takes great pride in growing a wide variety of the finest potatoes. The potatoes are sold in supermarkets, restaurants and chip shops throughout Ireland.

Established eight years ago in the south-east corner of Ireland, Kilmore Potatoes Ltd is run by brothers John and Chris Fortune who, like their father and grandfather before them, have a passion for growing potatoes.

The company employs seven full-time staff in Kilmore, which is 10 miles south of Wexford town and only a few miles from the coast. The Fortune’s grow thousands of tonnes of quality potatoes annually on 380 acres of mostly rented land, which they supply directly to packers and distributors as well as to local restaurants and chippers.

The Irish know their potatoes better than anyone, so the Fortune’s take great pride in the care and skill with which they grow potatoes. They give their potatoes all the attention they need to ensure they arrive on the consumer’s plate in prime condition. John and Chris strive to provide the highest quality potatoes which meet the standards of the Irish consumer, while being mindful of the environment. Their passion for producing the best keeps them focused and promotes continuous improvement.

The family tradition of growing potatoes goes back many decades. John Fortune Snr, who is now 75, supplied potatoes to local chip shops before his sons took things a step further by growing spuds on a much bigger scale.

“It’s in our blood,” John Jnr informs us.

“Our father and grandfather grew potatoes and it’s all we knew when we were growing up. Kilmore Potatoes came into being in 2007 and has grown every year since then. We’ve had to get bigger in order to make a living from it. I don’t know if there’s room for further expansion because the demand for potatoes isn’t what it used to be.

“People’s lifestyles are changing. They are choosing different foods and potato growers are under pressure. It has been a shrinking market for the last five or six years…”

The Fortune’s grow and harvest the potatoes themselves. They have one McCormick and four Landini tractors (all supplied by Brogan’s Tractors Duncormick), and various other equipment such as potato harvesters, destoners, sprayers, fertilizer spreaders and rotavators.

Once harvested, the potatoes are washed and graded. Most of the potatoes are sent to K&K Produce in north Co. Dublin for packing and distribution. K&K are recognised as one of the leading suppliers of fresh food in Ireland and work with a large grower base both home and abroad to ensure their customers in the retail, food service, wholesale and export markets can eat great fresh food every day.

Kilmore Potatoes also supply directly to Meade Potatoes in Co. Meath, Cullen’s Fruit & Veg in Gorey, Co. Wexford and Millen Foods in Co. Offaly. The potatoes they supply to restaurant and chip shops are usually fresh cut, having been peeled and sliced before delivery.

The cycle begins for Kilmore Potatoes in February when planting of ‘early’ potatoes takes place. This is followed by harvesting between the months of May and November. In between, the potatoes are sprayed every 10 days to control and prevent the spread of potato blight, which can wipe out a crop overnight.

“We start the process by destoning the land and then planting,” John explains.

“We sow our first crop in early February, and continue sowing up until the end of April. The ‘earlys’, which are grown under plastic, are harvested towards the end of May. The weather dictates everything.”

The Fortune’s grow a variety of potatoes to suit every taste. These include Roosters, Kerr’s Pink, British Queen’s, Golden Wonders and salad varieties. Red-skinned, yellow-fleshed, easy to cook any way and hardy, Roosters are the most widely grown potato in Ireland which are traditionally harvested from August through November.

Kerr’s Pink, with their white-to-pink skin colour, are flourier than the Rooster. This is another Irish favourite that has traditionally been grown in counties Cork, Kerry and Donegal. Queen’s are also very popular. They are a mainstay of the summer with their white skin and flesh, excellent floury texture and beautiful taste. They can be used for boiling, steaming, roasting and chipping.

Golden Wonder is a late main crop russet skinned variety of potato. It is very dry and floury and is ideal for baking, roasting and frying, but is completely unsuitable for boiling as it will disintegrate in the boiling water as it cooks.

There is a growing market for salad potatoes, and the Fortune’s are growing more of these varieties to cater for demand. They also grow a variety of potatoes which are suited for making chips, including Markies and Maris Piper.

John believes more needs to be done to market potatoes in the face of growing competition from other staple foods such as pasta and rice.

“Bord Bia are running a promotional campaign which is being funded by the growers, packers and EU,” he says.

“The consumption of potatoes is falling throughout Europe and we can’t allow this to continue. There is a perception that potatoes take too long to prepare, but the reality is that they can be just as convenient and as easy to prepare as rice, pasta or frozen potato products.

“There is also a perception that potatoes are fattening, which isn’t the case at all. This is a misconception that needs to be addressed.  Potatoes go hand-in-hand with all the traditional meals we have in this country. It has also been proven that they satisfy hunger for longer.

“We need to get this message across to consumers or we will continue to lose them.”

Kilmore Potatoes Ltd
Co. Wexford.

Telephone: 053 9135246
Mobile: 087 2862914
E: [email protected]com

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 3 No 5, June 2015