Onion Expert

You Didn't Really Eat Yams Today

Ashley Narvaiz - Thursday, November 23, 2017

Families will gather around the table today, ready to create memories and enjoy delicious food. One Thanksgiving classic you're bound to see is a dish of Candied Yams, topped with brown sugar and golden marshmallows! 


We're going to let you in on a secret... 

If you took a big scoop of those candied yams, they weren't actually yams!


                                   


Capital Public Radio shared an article on the myth behind the American Yam - and that myth is that what we enjoy as our candied yams, are actually sweet potatoes! Most Americans have never tasted a real yam - typically grown in Africa and far more starchy and watery. You've likely never seen a real yam in your life!


  

           Sweet Potato        Yam              Potato


So why do all of the shippers and grocery stores label sweet potatoes as yams - when they really aren't yams?


JJ Harbster explained when the sweet potatoes were first brought over to America, "They recognized that root, or the tuber, that looked very much like the yams they knew in Africa and they called them yams, and so the marketers, they just ran with it."


....It's really just from marketing!


This video we found explains the phenomenon too: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCDeMbgX7vk


In recent years, many sweet potato growers and shippers are trying to squash this mis-marketing and have started labeling sweet potatoes as sweet potatoes. The shift in grocery stores for consumers likely isn't coming soon. Kathy Means with the Produce Marketing Association based in Delaware says it may be a tough sell, especially this time of year, when family traditions come into play, regardless of how botanically incorrect the term yam may be.


“I think when you pull great-grandma’s recipe out of the recipe box for her candied yams or her marshmallow sweet potatoes, folks have a sense of what it is that they’re eating, in terms of family traditions and holidays and things like that,” says Means.


We're thinking it will take some time for Americans to stop asking for the candied yams to be passed along the table each Thanksgiving - but the shift is starting with growers and shippers. The future might look different for grandma's Candied Yams.

Donation Load to Hurricane Harvey

Ashley Narvaiz - Saturday, September 09, 2017

As our team began to learn about the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, and the great efforts many were taking to begin the rebuilding process, we knew we had to join in.


“On a small level, we could relate. It hit home,” Shay said. “We know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, alone, and exhausted. Our winter was nothing compared to what’s going on in Texas now, but we remembered how much a kind word or phone call meant to us when we were struggling. In this case, we can do more than give encouragement – we can help.”


We researched what was needed: Non-perishable foods, water, work gloves, masks, bleach, hygiene products, and more. We could provide a truck and onions, but needed donations from other local businesses for the rest. Our Facebook post rallying for local donations was shared over 50 times in a single day. Our phone calls led to many great conversations with business owners more than willing to join in.


Eric Beck from Wada Farms was quick to offer two full pallets of potatoes.


“It’s an honor and privilege to join the other growers in our area to let Texas know that we are here to support them and get them back on their feet. To give the people down there a means to overcome something that was out of their control. It’s just showing humanity with a pay it forward mentality. We had an opportunity to step in and we did. It was the right thing to do,” he said. 


In total we were able to work with Wada Farms, Symms Fruit Ranch, and Red Apple to provide pallets of onions, potatoes, peaches, and water. Our community members also added other non-perishable foods and hygiene products to the load.


In addition to the items we sent, those who open up our onion bags will find a kind word from our employees here at Owyhee Produce – just so they know there are people here in Oregon and Idaho who care.


Are Your Brokers Actually Helping You?

Ashley Narvaiz - Friday, July 21, 2017

You’ve likely already formed an opinion on brokers. You might use them, you might not. In my opinion, brokers are bad - and that is not just because I am a shipper, or because I’m a sales person. 


In fact, as a sales person, working with brokers is typically much easier because it

takes work off my plate: finding trucks, answering questions, dealing with issues. 

There is value in a broker if they do their job correctly. Over my career I've worked 

with brokers who have been very capable, adept, hard-working and strived to maximize the value for their customers – but this is rare.


All of us at some point in our lives have played the telephone game, right? The game when you get in a circle and you whisper something into the ear of the person on your right. Then they pass that message around the circle until it gets back to you. We all know how dramatically different that one sentence can be once it gets back to you.


This is precisely the problem in dealing with brokers. My customer may have an issue with any number of variables, that I, as a shipper, as a farmer, or we as a family, can change and improve. The goal for me is making sure that my customer gets whatever it is that they need, when they need it, however they need it. A critical component to making sure that happens is communication. By the time that telephone game is played between the customer, broker and a dozen shippers, we, the growers, don’t know what you really want.  Unfortunately, we’ll continue sending you loads that still contain the problems you complained about in the first place, because the communication breakdown leaves us unaware of the real problem.  


By the time you receive your third or fourth incorrect load, the broker becomes defensive, because it’s come to the third or fourth time that they have messed up on the line of communication. To save themselves, often it’s the grower, the farmer that gets thrown under the bus. It’s unfortunate, because the broker didn’t mean to lose the business or frustrate you, the customer, or me, the shipper. But the telephone game just never works.


Aside from communication, another disadvantage of working with a broker is the effects on your pricing. Often brokers will argue that they can “shop the market.” If they are not a loyal buyer from a grower, often they will not get the best price. They may play games and buy a second label or an inferior product to try and match your price point. While that may seem to work in the short term, in the long term it is going to cost money and create problems.


It all comes down to who has more skin in the game. As a grower/shipper, we have everything to gain and everything to lose by servicing our customers. We need to be valuable to our customers. We need our customer to see we have their best interest in mind because their best interest is also our best interest. We know as growers that out of the 1,200 acres of onions we plant, that 200 acres have homes with great customers that are fair, reliable, and consistent in the way they purchase. Our customers know that they have a farmer that’s planted for them and has a reliable Plan B (back up acres from which to pull crops).


When the market gets very tight and you buy exclusively through brokers – who is going to have the supply? Will it be the broker, who occasionally buys from multiple shippers? Or is it going to be the customer that has the relationship with the shipper? You see that’s where the money is really made. The money isn’t made in a $7 - $10 average onion market. No, it’s made in the high market. In a low/average market, you can get all the onions you want and compete with everyone else in the market who also has onions. If the market doubles or triples in price, which one of you is going to be able to have the product? Bingo. The person who gets the product is the person that has a true relationship. You, the customer, will have the product and your competitors who buy through brokers will not. You’ll be the one with the advantage and the one that makes the money in the high market.


If you’re large enough as an organization to afford buying straight loads or half loads, it would not be to your advantage to buy through a broker. Avoid them. If you feel like you have a valuable broker, continue to work with them, but demand that you have a direct line of communication with yourself and the grower/shipper. If that broker is providing you the service that they should, they should not feel threatened by the idea that you speak directly with the grower/shipper. A direct line of communication is something that should be demanded, expected, and provided. I don’t want a broker to promise you that we’ll get your order in early only to not tell me how urgent it is for you because they forgot or don’t care. They don’t care for you, the customer, like we do.


I do not mean to disparage my broker friends or the few great brokers I’ve worked with. I see their value when they aren’t afraid to have me communicate with the customer, to have me involved in the conversation. They know of our integrity and our capability in fulfilling what it is the customer needs. If we have to stay late, we’ll stay late. If we need to come early, we’ll come early. We know you need your product. We need you, our family needs you, to buy from us. Communicate with us. Give us an opportunity to sell directly to you and we can change the industry. We can change the game, the efficiency, and the possibilities. 

Social Media Gave Us Support

Ashley Narvaiz - Monday, July 17, 2017

Owyhee Produce is lucky to have such an amazing extended “family” that surrounds our three-generation operated farm – from the wholesalers that distribute our produce to consumers that share their favorite recipes. In recent years, social media has allowed us to share live videos of our harvest, photos of our hard-working crew, and get to know our YOU – our followers!


Over the past few months we’ve gotten to know a gentleman by the name of Chris Holmes, a fellow farmer at Mata Farms in Mississippi, via our Facebook page. A few years ago, Chris was in need of a load of whites and reached out to Shay and Robin:


Chris said, “I saw you guys rise from a very small operation to building your own packing shed and I knew the story. I’d seen some of your social media and knew the members of the Froerer family were very strong believers.”


That conversation made an impression on Chris and when he saw the Treasure Valley begin to experience the effects of Snowmaggedon 2017, Chris felt led to reach out to us again.


“I could see what was actually happening through Shay’s videos and updates. I could see it was crushing the company, having known them. It was just totally unbelievable. It compelled me to enlist members of my church to pray without ceasing to turn the tragic situation around," he said. 


More than just prayers, Chris made it a point to respond to each and every post we published with words of encouragement and humor to help us get through the winter. Maybe you’ve seen his creative memes in the comments? Our team began to look forward to seeing what Chris would come up with and it offered us some humor in a difficult time.


Social media has changed our industry in so many ways. At Owyhee Produce, we’re grateful for the opportunity it has given us to meet people like Chris and forge meaningful, supportive relationships in our industry. Thank you Chris – for everything! 


Here are some examples of Chris's awesome creations: 


    


  

Giving Back - Asparagus Style

Ashley Narvaiz - Saturday, June 17, 2017

Over the course of this asparagus season, Owyhee Produce has donated more than 30,000 lbs of Ida-Spears to senior centers and food banks in both Idaho and Oregon. It’s just our way to say “thank-you” to all of YOU. 

It wasn’t that long ago that our family farm was at a crossroads – we’d been growing asparagus and shipping it to Syneca, WA to be canned for years. When the cannery closed we had to decide whether to stop growing our Ida-Spears – and lose acres and acres of crops just about to come into maturity – or to take the risk to start fresh packing our own asparagus. We decided to take the plunge.


Fast forward to the last three years. We’ve experienced incredible growth when it comes to our Ida-Spear operations. Our crops are settling into their full maturity (and we’ve expanded the acreage), we’ve installed an automated packing line, and we’re scrambling to find enough hands to keep up with the number of spears coming in.


For our family farm – this success is overwhelming. We know that it has come directly from the support we’ve received from the industry, and from our awesome community. We have so many people in the Eastern Oregon/Idaho area encouraging and supporting us to keep reaching new heights. And that is why our family farm makes a point to give back to the community that has given so much to us.


  



Recipe: Bloody Mary Pickled Asparagus

Ashley Narvaiz - Wednesday, June 07, 2017

We are always looking for delicious ways to prepare our homegrown produce. With the fresh asparagus season being so quick, what better way to enjoy our Ida-Spears than to can and preserve them for months of enjoyment! We tried this recipe for Bloody Mary Pickled Asparagus and couldn't wait to share it with you!



Ingredients:


2 1/2 cups cider vinegar

2 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 cups tomato juice

8 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon canning and pickling salt

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

2 teaspoons celery seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon pepper

2 pounds thick asparagus, trimmed to measure 6 inches long

2 (1/4 inch thick) round lemon slices



Directions:


1. Bring vinegar, water, tomato juice, garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire, salt, horseradish, celery seeds, pepper flakes, and pepper to boil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Carefully add asparagus to vinegar mixture with tips facing same direction. Return to brief boil, then immediately remove from heat. 


2. Meanwhile, place two 1-quart jars in bowl and place under hot running water until heated through.  1 to 2 minutes; shake dry. 


3. Using tongs, carefully pack asparagus into hot jars, tips facing up. Using funnel and ladle, pour hot brine over asparagus to cover, and gently press lemon slice into each jar until just submerged. 



4. Let jars cool to room temperature, cover with lids, and refrigerate for at least 5 days before serving. (Asparagus can be refrigerated for up to 1 month; flavor will continue to mature over time.)


**From our friends at Foolproof Preserving. There are some awesome #onion and #mint recipes in their book too! Check it out: http://foolproofpreserving.com/



Snowmageddon Affects Linger into Planting Season 2017

Ashley Narvaiz - Thursday, April 20, 2017

Here at Owyhee Produce, we went through a tough winter - like many shippers and growers in the Treasure Valley. We are glad to have our fallen buildings cleared away and new construction started, but the weather this winter still has some left over effects on our newly planted crop.

 

 

1. Delay

The long, drawn-out winter has kept temperatures cool for much longer this year than usual. We have also experienced quite a bit of rain this spring. The wet conditions have delayed planting the new crops. In order for our onions to fully mature before our summer gets too hot, we need the right amount of growing days in the ground. The delays have brought concerns that the crop would not get planted in time to ensure full maturity. At Owyhee Produce we have just completed our planting, but you can expect some reduction in yields from the valley if some crops don't have enough growing time. 

 

2. Soil

In the Treasure Valley, our winters typically take this pattern : freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw. This pattern allows the soil to resettle from the previous season. This winter was a different story. Before the ground had a chance to freeze, we had snowfall. This snow then stayed for a very long time and acted as a layer of insulation for the soil, which never actually froze. Now that is it spring and we are beginning to work the soil, we have had to work with soil that wasn't completely reset from the previous season, and this has brought on some difficulties.

 

3. Crop Reduction?

At this point in the season, it is difficult to make predictions on whether these affects will trickle on to crop yields. The difficulty comes from not knowing what our summer will look like. Each onion variety has different needs. Some varieties will do perfectly with the conditions imposed by our interesting winter. Others need a cool, nice spring, and heat later in the summer. Depending on when our heat comes this summer will drastically affect certain yields. Any onion that is growing in heat around 90 degrees will stop growing from the stress of the heat. We are looking for that perfect warm/cool weather for our crops!

 

 

As always, we are waiting on Mother Nature to determine how severely, if at all, these conditions will affect the yields in our 2017 season. At this point, we have begun construction on our new storage buildings and a new packing shed. We expect to be working completely out of our new facilities by the first of the new year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our NEW State of the Art Asparagus Line

Ashley Narvaiz - Thursday, April 06, 2017

Owyhee Produce is proud to announce that we have installed a new state-of-the-art automatic asparagus line for the 2017 season!

 

This automatic line from Germany is a high-quality, top-of-the-line system with incredible benefits for both our company and our customers. We are excited to see the affects in our upcoming asparagus season.

 

 

 

 

 

We have been growing asparagus in the Treasure Valley since the 1990s, deciding in the early 2000s to start fresh packing our Ida-Spears. Most asparagus lovers aren’t aware of how labor-intensive the crop is. With every acre needing to be picked every day, sometimes twice, Robin Froerer, who heads our asparagus operation, has an average of 85-100 people picking and 65 people packing daily.

 

With labor becoming more and more difficult to find, we began searching for a way to reduce our labor needs. The installation of our new line will drastically cut our labor needs, while still giving our customers the best produce and service.

 

 The line includes a built in camera that takes 360 degree images of each spear on the line, which aides the system in determining which category to place each spear based on length and thickness. The machine will organize each bundle with exact preciseness and then band each one. Each bundle will be more accurate, and the line will also allow us to put together special orders for customers who want a specific count in each bundle.

 

With a line made completely of stainless steel we will see increased benefits in terms of food safety. The line will be easy to clean, maintain, and monitor.

 

"We are really excited about this big step for our asparagus operations," Robin said. "We know that this installation will be to our benefit and growth as a company."

 

Owyhee Produce picks and packs asparagus from April to mid-June, and has fresh asparagus available for purchase directly at the packing shed. With our packing shed also recovering from the affects of our winter in the Treasure Valley, the location of the asparagus for purchase will likely be different than it has been in years past, so please be very cautious and aware of the new set up. Follow us on Facebook to keep up to date with all of the changes we have going on (and the flash sales we will offer on our produce!)

 

 

 

 

This Is Where We Are

Ashley Narvaiz - Thursday, January 19, 2017

 

We'd like to reach out and update you on where we're at in regards to our current weather conditions. We've been grateful to be able to use social media to give you live updates and receive so many thoughtful, kind words and prayers from our extended Owyhee family.

 

At this point we are beyond blessed to report that our entire crew is safe and sound and we've experience no injuries, though one employee was on a forklift when one building collapsed. We are so grateful for the safety of our team and are continuing to ensure that safety is our top priority while we deal with these conditions.

 

We've had four buildings collapse at this point and are in the process of figuring out how we will be able to continue storing and packing onions.

 

Here are our concerns:

 

 

We have a dedicated workforce that has been with us through thick and thin. We have concerns for our Owyhee employees and their families and want to make sure that we are able to have our crews continue to come in and work so that no family suffers from these damages.

 

Furthermore, Owyhee Produce was built on firm handshakes and honest relationships. We have spent years building relationships and loyalty with our customers are we are committed to providing for them.  At this point, we are still trying to wrap our heads around what has happened and is continuing to happen. You can rest assured that our family and friends are working very long hours to protect our employees and resources while trying to get our loads out to our customers.

 

 

At the end of the day, buildings and equipment are replaceable. Our concerns lie with our people: our employees and our customers. The safety of our crew and the relationships with our customers are far more valuable than any shed.

 

Owyhee Produce is committed to working hard through these conditions and thankfully they are temporary! We love our business and the people it has connected us to. We'll continue to keep you updated as we move forward. Thank you for your continued support! 

 

 

 

Why are there so few Mediums and so many Colossals?

Shay Myers - Sunday, December 11, 2016

For those of you on the buying desk, I imagine at least a few have you have wondered the reason behind the large amounts of Colossal and larger onions this year. There are, as you might expect, a few reasons for this.


I should explain what we do to create our desired size profile in the field. It's pretty simple; we plant onions closer together or farther apart depending on the size of onions we want to grow. The closer together the onions, the smaller. The farther apart, the larger. You can think of it like a litter of puppies all fighting to get something to eat, if there are more dogs than there is food, you end up with overall smaller pups and and a runt here and there. If the litter is small, you end up with a few really fat puppies. Onions are no different. They are competing for the nutrients from the soil, just like the puppies do for milk.





This crop wasn't planted farther apart though, it was Mother Nature who came in and created all that space. Wet, windy, and cold weather early in the onion's lives killed about 10% more than what most of us planned for. These dead onions made more space. Normally more space would mean larger onions, but mother nature followed up the wet, windy, and cold weather with almost perfect growing conditions for the remainder of the season. So not only did our onions have more nutrients available to them in the soil, but they also had warm days and especially warm nights that kept them growing. The end result, yields that were 10-15 higher than normal with stand counts that were about that much lower than normal. Mother Nature is Awesome!


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