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Winkler County Texas


Potato Farming

Local potato farm thrives with twice as many acres producing this year.

Economic Diversity...

With drought conditions making it more difficult for cattle breeding, CSS FARMS and SMITH RANCHES have joined together planting potatoes in February and after harvest planting rye for winter grazing for the cattle.

Kermit potato farm fills Frito-Lay niche

Below is the article that was published in the Winkler County News on July 19, 2001

and photos of the harvest.


Kermit potato farm fills Frito-Lay niche



By Julie Breaux
Odessa American

KERMIT — Pecos has its cantaloupe. Seminole has cotton and peanuts.
And now, with its potato-chip potato, Winkler County has joined other West Texas counties that support commercial farming.
In the next few days, CSS Farms will wrap up the harvest of 380,000 to 400,000 pounds of potatoes grown exclusively for snack-food giant Frito-Lay, said Dennis Janke, general manager of CSS Farms’ Texas operations.
Technical changes — and a bit more rain this spring — helped improve the yield by about 100,000 pounds more than the previous three years, Janke said.
“Sometimes it can be a little bit harsh, but this year was more normal for the area,” Janke said.
The potatoes grown just outside Kermit — about 40 miles west of Odessa — are made into Lay’s potato chips, Ruffles and Wavy Lay’s at several Frito-Lay plants in Texas, Janke said.
The West Texas crop “fills a niche” for Frito-Lay by closing gaps in harvest times, Janke said.
South of Kermit, the potatoes are grown on land owned by Kermit rancher and oilman Rick Smith, who said CSS Farms’ representatives “just pulled into town cold turkey” and asked him if he would be interested in doing business with them.
Smith provides the land, irrigation pivots and water wells. CSS furnishes the labor and, along with Frito-Lay, is responsible for quality control, Smith said.
The lengths to which both companies go to ensure consistent quality fascinate Smith.
Applying fertilizer is akin to a scientific experiment, with little left to chance, he said.
“They don’t like rain,” Smith said. “When they put (fertilizer) on … they may put down three-quarters of an inch of water or an inch-and-a-quarter or one inch to try to get that fertilizer right were that tuber is,” Smith said. “If it rains, they can’t control the depth of that water.”
And Frito Lay is “very, very strict” about ensuring that the potatoes meet their standards, Smith said.
When harvesting begins, Frito-Lay sends a representative to test their quality.
“When the potatoes come out, he’ll get six to 10 of them, and he fries ‘em right there, just like you’d do at the plant,” Smith said. “And if they don’t fry right, they’ll reject the whole load.”
Frito-Lay has never rejected a Winkler County crop, “but we know they wouldn’t hesitate to do that,” Smith said.
Smith attributed the success of the potato-chip farm to Winkler County’s sandy soil, sweet water and low rainfall.
And yet, even though growing conditions are ideal there, this is the first commercial farm to operate in Winkler County, Smith said.
“This is it. It’s an unusual deal to occur.”
Unusual, maybe, but CSS Farms has been good for the county and the small town of Kermit, Smith said.
It’s estimated the farm generates about $40,000 in tax revenues annually through the creation of about 30 to 40 jobs each year.





Last Updated: Saturday, January 27, 2007

Copyright 2007 by Kay Woods-Lopez

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