(Aug. 22) MONTE VISTA, Colo. — A long-term relationship between L&M Cos., Raleigh, N.C., and San Luis Valley potato grower-shipper Sanderson Farms Inc. is taking another step this fall.

L&M Cos. will market all of Sanderson Farms’ potatoes this year under L&M’s Nature’s Delight and Sandy’s Pride brands, as well as private label brands.

President Jim Sanderson said he is growing 750 acres of potatoes this fall, and his shed also packs product for other San Luis Valley growers. Last season, 600,000 cwt. of potatoes ran through the facility.

“It gives us access to more and better markets,” Sanderson said about the new agreement. “We’re trying to enhance our growth, and with the small-shed concept, we need to consolidate somewhere or other.”

Since its inception in 1999, growers’ marketing organization Farm Fresh Direct LLC, Monte Vista, has signed up nine potato sheds in the valley. Late last year, marketer American Potato Co., Monte Vista, joined Farm Fresh Direct. Sanderson Farms, a member of American Potato at that time, declined to make the move.

Mike Baskett, director of sales for L&M’s potato and onion division, said his company has bought potatoes from Sanderson Farms for many years. This is the first year all of Sanderson Farms’ potatoes will go through L&M’s on-site sales office, which is staffed by Joe Surerus, formerly of L&M’s Idaho office.

“We’ll continue to use other suppliers out there, because we feel there is a need for that,” Baskett said. “We hope to continue other relationship there.”

L&M also has potato farming, packing, repacking and sales offices in Florida, Maine and North Carolina.

“We’re partnering (with Sanderson Farms) to find a way to expand the market for both parties,” Baskett said.

Sanderson Farms, a third-generation grower, will market more than a million packages through the new agreement, including consumer bags (in traditional and nonstandard weights and sizes), returnable plastic containers and specialty packs.