Farm and Packing Blog

Mint Lemonade with the ACF

Ashley Narvaiz - Thursday, March 31, 2016

This March we were invited to give a presentation to the American Culinary Federation's Boise chapter! This unique foundation strives to bring chefs, restaurant owners, and wholesalers in direct contact with growers and shippers in order to bridge gaps across the industry. President Sarah Mallard brought together members from Sysco, Metro Meals on Wheels, Food Services of America, Mobi 2 Market, and many others to pack the event. Owyhee Produce and Southwind Farms presented on behalf of growers and shippers. 





What we love about these face-to-face, intimate setting presentations is that we get to talk about WHAT we do and WHY to people who can ask questions and engage with our growing process. Yes, we grow onions, asparagus, and mint, along with all of our other rotation crops. But we love to talk about HOW we do that using common sense farming practices. We love sharing our history from Owen's small beginnings to our success today.  We love to share how you can take our produce and bring it directly into your kitchen in a variety of ways. We can share a lot through our website and social media profiles, but there's no better way to understand what we do than to be able to ask us directly at an event like this, or come to our packing shed to see the action yourself. 



Where the Asparagus Ends

Gabrielle Nelson - Wednesday, July 08, 2015



            This year Froerer Farms had their longest growing season on record for asparagus. The Froerer family started growing asparagus in the 1990’s. During the past two decades the usual season had an average of 40 packing days, but this year Owyhee Produce fresh packed for 57 days. Farm Manager Craig Froerer said, “The crop started earlier because of warmer weather. The youngest fields are in their fourth year, and were heavily picked this year. In three years they will be in full production. Over the next three years [the asparagus’s] health and maturity will improve.” In other words there is an upward trend in asparagus which doesn’t show signs of slowing.

            “All I equate [asparagus] to is a lot of hard work,” Packing Manager Robin Froerer explained. About 100 pickers harvested over 140 acres twice a day. For the first time ever Froerer Farms had to deal with a shortage of labor on the packaging side of business. Despite this set back the Owyhee Produce and IDA Spear merger has flourished. Since the January 2015 merger Owyhee Produce’s ability to provide benefits to their joined customers has increased. More employees are available to take customer calls and questions. Also, there are more employees to help with the logistics of shipping.

              This year Froerer Farms’ asparagus was enjoyed country wide: from Seattle to Florida. Some shipments traveled as far as Canada, but some produce always stays close to home. Local sales make any season better. “We’ve had great community and local support” Robin said. Because Froerer Farms sells to locals they reduce product waste. Also, Froerer Farms extensively gives back to the community that supports them.   “We have donated to every foodbank in the Treasure Valley,” Robin said, Froerer Farms has also donated to Meals on Wheels and nearby foodbanks in Star, Payette, Ontario, Nysa, Vale, and Parma. Some of the donated produce will also go to Portland Steve Morningstar from Western Idaho Community Action Partnership Incorporated (WICAP), said [Froerer Farms] has donated the most fresh produce of any local farm so far this summer. He is hopeful for more donations later. The asparagus, “helps families eat healthier and is a nice treat,” he said. WICAP has received asparagus from Froerer Farms since May. In June alone WICAP compiled 302 food boxes for 283 families. In addition to the food boxes Froerer Farms’ donations helped provided fresh produce to 405 adults, 220 children, and 95 seniors.   Remarking on the end of this year’s asparagus season Craig Froerer said, “Production for the future looks very promising.”  

US (OR): Unusually early start green asparagus season

Shay Myers - Friday, April 10, 2015
“Our asparagus season is off to the earliest start in 25 years,” said Robin Froerer with Owyhee Produce. “We’ve experienced unseasonably warm weather and already started picking in March,” Froerer added. In an average season, picking starts between April 15 and April 20. “Although we’ve been picking for a few weeks, volumes are still light. This is mainly caused by last week’s cold spell when we lost some of our production to frost.” As the weather warms up again, volumes will become heavier. 



High prices
“Prices are fantastic for the growers,” commented Froerer. At the moment, they are about $50 - $56 for a 28 lb. box. The same time last year, prices were not bad, but came out quite a bit lower with $46 - $48 per 28 lb. box. “Once more volume comes on, prices will start to come down. We are in the same production window as Washington State and as soon as they come into full production, we will notice a drop in prices,” said Froerer. Asparagus is a labour-intensive crop and getting it picked is an issue. “It is a 12-20 year crop and because of its labor intensity many growers throughout the US are not replacing it and have taken it out in recent years.“



Owyhee Produce ships its asparagus all over the United States to mainstream retailers like Albertson’s, Winco’s and Walmart. Additionally, the company also is a supplier to the foodservice industry.

For more information:
Robin Froerer
Owyhee Produce
Tel: (+1) 541-610-0410

Late Season Onion Care Instructions

Ashley Coles - Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Over the last 5-8 years we have dramatically improved our ability to extend the storage-onion shipping season.  The combination of hearty storage varieties, cold storages, and sprout inhibitors means that many we can now supply onions from right here in Oregon for 10 months of the year.  However, with the advantage these better skinned varieties come with there are also a few characteristics that must be managed in order to minimize shrink and maximize profits.


Later in the season you may begin to see green specks in the center of the onions.  This little green speck is what we call an internal sprout.  This happens naturally as the onion goes through its life cycle and this is a very manageable issue.  If an onion is kept cool it will take, at least, several weeks for the internal sprouts to become external ones.


Here are a few pointers:


  1. Keep onions cool (35-45 degrees) (While these temps may cause a bit of translucency, don’t worry it will go away with just 12-24 hours at 45 or higher)


  2. Keep onions well ventilated, the more air the better (Our storages run 34-36 degrees and have constant air flow.)


  3. Keep onions dry (Our storages run 55-65% humidity.)


  4. If you have to choose between dry and warm or humid and cool….choose humid and cool


  5. Avoid sudden changes in temp as the papery skin will draw-in and hold moisture


  6. No room in the cooler, try air stacking the bags to allow air to reach the center of the pallet


  7. Plan on keeping onions for 3 weeks during the later part of the storage season… treat them a bit more like you might an apple.


Work Hard, Play Hard

Ashley Coles - Thursday, February 19, 2015

At the end of our cold January, Owen Froerer and 21 other family members clocked off at the farm and boarded a plane down to Soliman Bay, Mexico for a week of rest, relaxation, and exploration in nice 80° weather.


  


The large group of Owens children and grandchildren spent the week in a large house on the beach, kayaking in the bay and snorkeling under the surface. They took busses around to local areas and swam with dolphins and even took a bike tour through the warm jungle.

 

Founder Owen was amazed by the expansive ruins the family explored commenting that you just couldnt believe they could build that much by hand.

 


 

But thats exactly what Owen has done himself.

 

Field by field, seed by seed, the Froerer Farm legacy has been built into the enormously successful company it is today. The success of the Froerer familys hard work is what allows them to take a week here and there to step away from the business and play together as a family.

 

For a short hour during the trip, Owen sat the younger children down to talk about the business. He wanted them to understand what was allowing them to be in Mexico that week to see that great fun can be had, only after hard work is put in. To the children, this was eye-opening. To the adults who already work for the farm, it was an affirmation of the passion they work with every day.

 

The value in the whole thing is that were used to working together,said Shay Myers. We dont play together every day. We could just enjoy the moment and not worry about the why, or how it might affect the business.

 

 


Every evening, the family sat down to dinner and went around the table telling each other what their favorite thing was from the day. Each night ended with that special time of everyone coming together something that was very special and important to Owen.

 

I cant believe how blessed I am to be able to do this,he said. To share this experience with the family I love so much.


 

New Packaging Design Released by Owyhee Produce

Ashley Coles - Thursday, December 04, 2014

When it comes to keeping your produce display clean and organized, onions can be one of the hardest to maintain. Each and every movement causes parts of the flaky onion skin to fall off onto your display – a problem not solely found in the individual onion display, but also underneath the typical 3lb. mesh bags.


With current packaging options, there hasn’t been anything retailers could do to prevent the mess and consequently have resorted to just maintaining it. For decades, open displays and 3 lb. bags have been the only two options for onion packaging – packaging that is not exactly effective, but is familiar to retailers and consumers alike. At Owyhee Produce, we weren’t content with staying with the familiar, and looked for a better product to provide for our retailers and furthermore, their consumers.


Owyhee Produce is excited to announce a new innovative onion packaging option entitled The Sleeve Pack.




Still employing the use of a mesh bag, instead of loosely containing the onions, The Sleeve Pack hugs the onions in a side-by-side display that minimizes movement, and maximizes cleanliness and organization.


At the retail level, The Sleeve Pack makes displaying onions easier with its stackability and its assurance of consistency – offering 2 lbs. of onions all the same size.


Outside of the store, The Sleeve Pack offers your consumers great benefits at home. The Sleeve Pack continues its traits of easy storage and cleanliness, adding the ability to knot the open the slim bag for later use, a convenience that the open mesh bags can’t offer.


Shay Myers, General Manager of Owyhee Produce, is excited for retailers to reap the benefits of the Sleeve Pack’s design.


“The Sleeve Pack is innovative, it looks great, and I anticipate it driving sales,” Myers said. “But the bottom line for me is to get the absolute best product out to my customers. I want to give them an added value to their products they sell to their customers so that they can stand out.”


With a fully operational packaging system in place, Owyhee Produce is looking forward to sending The Sleeve Pack out with the start of the new year. At present, The Sleeve Pack will be sold in a carton 

(21/2lbs.). Contact Owyhee Produce at 541-610-0410 for more information. 

We're Thankful for Our Drivers

Ashley Coles - Sunday, November 23, 2014
At Owyhee Produce, we have a very long list of things we’re thankful for. When you work for a family farm of three generations in partnership with a lot of great local people, your co-workers become long-time friends.   
Randy Jacobson is one of our drivers who works for Albertsons. Twice a week, he comes out to Owyhee to pick up either onions or asparagus. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know Randy pretty well and we’re really grateful to have him.   

“Randy loves his job,” Shay Myers, General Manager at Owyhee Produce, said. “He sees the importance of his job – bringing food to people – and makes a point to touch people along the way.”   Not only is Randy a super nice guy to work with – easy-going, patient, and easy to talk to – but he generously brings us donuts from Albertsons every time he comes our way.  

 

Why does he do it?   

“They treat me like family,” Randy said. “They make me feel welcome, appreciated, and comfortable. Some places tell you to just go sit in your truck but they make me feel like a part of them.”   

Outside of simply having a good personal relationship, we have a great business relationship with Randy – from one great company to another.   

“I love their morals,” Randy said. “They’re hardworking and family oriented – and they work so well together. There’s a difference here – the least I can do is give them something to munch on.”   

Thank you Randy, for all you do. 
Thank you to all of our drivers, for working long hours to bring our produce to the nation.   

We couldn’t do it without you.

Quick Onion Market Update

Shay Myers - Thursday, November 20, 2014

While there are reports of sluggish sales on onions nationwide, the numbers seem to indicate that not to be the case. That is to say the emotional response doesn’t match how we all feel. We feel like it is slow because we all have onions to sell and that is reflected in the prices we are willing to offer to move onions, at least yellow ones. Jumbo yellow onions are trading for $5.00-5.50 and mediums for about a dollar less than that. Jumbo and medium reds are holding their own and are trading for $6.50 and $5.00, respectively. Jumbo Whites are $12 and Mediums are $10.

 

Owyhee Produce Adopts Early Tracking Technology-Signs Exclusive Deal with Locus Traxx Worldwide

Shay Myers - Friday, November 14, 2014

Traditional farming has changed drastically in the past century, in more ways than one. Machines and technology especially, have digitized and optimized farming practices for modern-day growers – and the evolution continues.

 

Tracking technology has been incredibly popular in the last few decades – generically being used to monitor mailed packages, coordinate road-trips with GPS systems, and tagging your personal location via Facebook. 

 

Shay Myers, General Manager at Owyhee Produce, has wanted to pair tracking technology and produce for years, but the technology hasn’t quite been where it needed to be. The process was rough, inconvenient, and too expensive to bother implementing – that is, until now. New, disposable, easy to use technology has been released by Locus Traxx and Owyhee Produce is on board as an early adopter.  During PMA Fresh summit in October, Owyhee’s Shay Myers penned an agreement for exclusivity on onions for the new SmartTraxx GO™ technology with David Benjamin, CEO of Locus Traxx Worldwide.


 

This new technology provides Owyhee Produce and its customers with a disposable tracker placed among the load. The tracker is activated upon release of the shipment and monitors the location and temperature of the load in real-time. 

 

“It takes out the guess work,” Myers said. “That’s really what it comes down to. The

SmartTraxx GO™ eliminates the breakdown of communication between the product receiver and the truck carrier. It’s all about preventing potential problems instead of having to react to them.  When we buy a 10 dollar widget from Amazon, we expect to be able to track it from shipping to delivery, but not with a 10 thousand dollar load of produce? That seemed crazy to me.”

 

So from now on, each electronic Bill of Lading from Owyhee will come with a tracking number and link.  This link works just like when you make a purchase on online, but instead of just knowing the general location of you package you will know the specific location and the temperature of the load in real time. 

 

What are the practical benefits of this system? 

  • Temperature Control

  • Location

  • Food Safety

  • On time deliveries

  • Assured Routing

  • Damage Prevention

 

Not only does tracking benefit the produce receiver, but it also benefits the grower/shipper. 

 

 

"As a shipper I like it,” Myers said. “It’s very valuable. When a customer calls, I don’t have to guess where their shipment is, or make three phone calls, and talk to the driver, etc. I know instantaneously where the load is exactly, always.”  

 

About Locus Traxx

Locus Traxx Worldwide is the leader in real-time temperature, location, and security monitoring for perishable and high value shipments in transit. Using their Oversight system and the technological superiority and versatility of the SmartTraxxTM system, Locus Traxx Worldwide can give customers access to critical data, at any time, and from any location. For more information, visit http://www.locustraxx.com. 

 

About Owyhee Produce

Owyhee Produce is a hybrid-farmer/agri-entrepreuneurial family business that farms over 3700 acres in Oregon and Idaho.  The company is proud to grow food for millions of consumers throughout the entirety of North America. The company provides customers with some of the finest onions on the market. For more information, visit www.owyheeproduce.com.

A Farmer's Non-Retirement Party

Ashley Coles - Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What does a farmer do after sixty year in the business? Some would retire. Some would sell out to the neighbor or the kids. Some would rent out the farm. That is not the case for Owen Froerer of Nyssa, Oregon owner of Froerer Farms, Ida Spear, and Owyhee Produce.

After sixty years in the farming business, he celebrated with a birthday party of sorts. The party was organized by his three children and four grandchildren who are now closely involved in the family business of farming. The event was to celebrate sixty years of farming and all the changes and challenges that have come over those years. The celebration gathering included a dinner for family, friends, and business associates and was followed by square dancing to a live band into the early hours of the morning. All told, more than 250 friends, family, neighbors, and business partners celebrated the event with Mr. Froerer.

During dinner, Froerer talked to the group about his early days as a child and running a team of horses with a sickle bar cutting hay on his father’s farm. A similar horse-drawn sickle bar was exhibited outside next to the newest windrower with GPS and hydraulic speed controls for all the moving parts. That team of horses actually spooked and ran away with him on one occasion and he narrowly escaped the runaway with only bruises and a lesson learned.

 

 

 

Froerer also spoke about other changes in the industry from the time he started. Most notably, technology has greatly impacted farming practices over the years. Also the technology and capital costs have added a tremendous entry barrier to the industry. From simply a cost standpoint alone, he is uncertain if an individual can even get a start in farming today. Second to technology, the regulatory changes have been the most pronounced changes in the past sixty years. A short history of the farm, and the family behind it, can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfFw_AH5HFo.

Following the Korean War, Mr. Froerer returned to the Nyssa area and married Colleen Bybee. His farming started while he worked for his father-in-law in his farming operation and gradually Froerer was able to purchase a small acreage and grow his own operation from a startup. Today Froerer Farms involves four thousand plus acres of production land, vertical integration of marketing components that include a mint still, an asparagus fresh pack operation Ida Spear, and an onion fresh packing operation Owyhee Produce.

 

More importantly to Froerer, the business involves his wife Colleen, a son, two daughters, and four grandsons in the daily operation. He has always attempted to extend opportunity to family members to be involved in the business when and where possible. At the same time, each family member has a multitude of responsibilities to meet in the operation and have contributed to the success of the various entities of Froerer Farms.

 

Owen Froerer is still a very active part of the operation at 82 years of age has no intention of retiring. He is still the first one to the farm shop many mornings as the daily work assignments are planned and executed in the pre-dawn hours. He operates the mint still and frequently oversees the asparagus and onion packing operations as well.

Like many farmers, Froerer has seen sixty years of crops come and go and faced challenges such as drought, fuel costs, and labor shortages over the years. But with each challenge a solution has been found and as a true farmer, he looks forward with optimism to the sixty first crop on the farm and wonders what challenges the next season will hold. Most importantly, he also wonders how his great-grandchildren might be involved in farming and agriculture someday.

 

 


We are a new age farm, with old world experience 3 generations strong. We operate with integrity and honor, by word, by handshake or by contract. Our families’ deep connection to the land, our relationship with our customers, and commitment to provide them with the finest produce available is what drives us 365 days a year.

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