New England Spuds Farm Boasts Rich History
When John Rupert Szawlowski stepped onto Ellis Island in 1902, he probably couldn’t have imagined that his vision for a family potato farm would still be in operation more than 100 years later. Four generations later, the Szawlowski family farm, or commonly known as Swaz Potato Farms, is one of the largest potato farms in New England.
Growing round white, red, Yukon Gold and russet potatoes on 5,000 acres, the Szawlowski family knows the land their great-grandfather chose on which to build has added to the success of this family business.
“Our farm lines both sides of the Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts,” explains Diane Szawlowski Mullins. “This is some of the richest soil on the earth. We have been fortunate to grow potatoes on incredibly fertile land, and geographically we are perfectly situated to distribute to some of the most densely populated areas in the Northeast.”
“Chefs want their produce to be as local as possible, and we are close to some of the most densely populated areas in the Northeast, so for many restaurants and retailers, we are local.”/p>
Even in the most productive agriculture soils, the growing season for potatoes in New England is still pretty short. Mullins says they typically harvest potatoes from the beginning of August to early November, oftentimes putting 25 trailer loads of potatoes a day out for distribution.
About 15 years ago, the Szawlowskis decided they wanted to expand their potato offerings year-round. They began partnering with potato farmers in Virginia, North Carolina, Maine and Canada to pack and ship potatoes from a newly built, state-of-the art packing and cooling facility. “By working with some of our farm partners, we are able to serve the big retailers and foodservice players 12 months a year, while also providing a local connection and outstanding service for customers in the North,” says Mullins.
The Szawlowskis also think it’s important to be good neighbors in their community as well as good stewards of their land. Annually, they donate more than 100,000 pounds of potatoes to the Foodbank of Western Massachusetts. And in 2010, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the farm, they launched a foundation providing scholarships to regional high school students who want to continue their education in agriculture. Their hope is to support future farmers who may also value and respect the land that has given this family so much for which they are proud.