Meet the Bishop Brothers: Potato Chip Kings of Upper Pittsgrove
You can’t make chips from just any spud. You need to use chip potatoes, which are denser and contain less moisture than those grown for the fresh market. Chip potatoes are the primary crop for the Bishop Brothers, Bruce and Tom, who farm about 1,000 acres in Upper Pittsgrove. For well over 100 years, members of the Bishop family have grown potatoes in the fertile soils of Salem County, whose farms are under increasing development pressure.
“I think we’re six or seven generations of potato farmers,” said Bruce Bishop.
If you like potato chips and live in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, there’s a good chance you’ve munched on chips made from potatoes grown in the Bishop Brothers’ fields. Thousands of tons of their chip potatoes are sold each year to snack brands like Wise, Herr, Cape Cod and Utz.
Bruce and Tom currently own about 800 acres of the lands they farm, and many of those acres are permanently preserved for farming or open space. For the Bishops, a big advantage to selling the development rights on their farmland is that it provides them capital to reinvest in their business, even as it ensures that farming will continue in Salem County.
“It just makes it more affordable to buy more ground,” explained Bruce.
The proceeds from the sale of the development rights on their 81-acre property in December were used to buy another 55-acre parcel, also located in Upper Pittsgrove. Previously, the sale of development rights on 265 acres also helped them buy additional farmland.
The Bishops grow several potato varieties for the fresh market too, as well as spinach, sweet corn and peas for the Seabrook Farms frozen vegetable brand. They also grow crops like soybeans, wheat and feed corn as part of their crop rotation schedule. To keep soil nutrients balanced, Bruce said, fields used for growing potatoes one year will be planted in different crops the next three.