CALL US Today : (541) 610-0410

Onion Expert

Organic Pesticides.. WTH??

Ashley Narvaiz - Monday, January 15, 2018

Let me begin by saying that I have no problem with either conventional or organic production when it is done appropriately. What I do have a problem with is the misrepresentation... of anything. When major national brands market themselves as something that they are not... it infuriates me. 


Organic growers and/or the organic industry pretend that they don't use pesticide. They talk about the "harmful pesticide and herbicide" that we use as conventional growers. Often times, we are using the same pesticide. I don't have a problem with pesticides, as long as they are used responsibly. The issue here is organic producers bashing conventional farmers for using what they are using. 

 

There are countless articles, like this one from NPR that explain how and why organic producers use pesticide. The main source quoted in the article has worked to promote and to educate growers and farmers about organic practices yet won't even respond directly to the question of whether organic pesticide is safer than conventional pesticide. The reason, in my opinion, that he demurs on answering is because the truth is that they are either the same - or slightly worse. That's why when you purchase organic produce from the store, there is still a pesticide residue. 


 


I will argue that all farmers use pesticide responsibly, because it's expensive! Per acre cost could be between $80-$100 per acre just for the chemical alone. It doesn't include the plane and tractors it takes to apply it. You're talking easily over $100 per acre per application. No one wants to waste that. 


Please, consumers, all of you. Do your homework. I don't have a problem with you buying conventionally or organically. But please don't let people spin a story to you. Please know the truth. We are all in this to feed Americans. There's a lot of work that goes into organic farming, so my respect is out there for the organic farmer. There's nothing wrong with what they are doing. But those that are marketing for those growers, or those that have been unethical in the way they talk about using pesticides and herbicides are the ones who are misrepresenting what it is that they do. 


And that is why the consumer needs to be more educated, and ask about the use of pesticide in organic production. And frankly to ask about the use of pesticide in conventional production too. Understand the truth, but know if you look from a health standpoint, from a usage standpoint - we're at least tied when it comes to conventional vs. organic. 


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: 


    


  

Why Should You Ship Early Onions on Flatbeds?

Ashley Narvaiz - Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Early Onion varieties tend to have less skin, a larger neck, and larger roots versus the long-day onions. It's important to cure the onions and we do everything at our shed from when we first put them in bins to when we are packing to let the onions dry and put on more skin. 


Inevitably though, they do lose skin on the packing line. However, early onions can quickly replace their lost skin with a short 12-24 hours of air flow. Air flow is crucial in replacing lost skin, allowing onions to arrive in better condition and to typically have a longer shelf-life. 



Here's where flatbed transportation comes in. Flatbeds provide optimal air flow to the onions during transportation. Refrigerated vans are the second best option, while vented vans with our current heat conditions are the worst option. 


When shipping early onions and wanting to receive the best quality, longest-lasting onion, it's wise to employ flatbeds for all of your transportation needs! 

Record-Breaking Harvest

Ashley Narvaiz - Thursday, October 08, 2015

Last weekend marked the earliest close to the onion harvest season in history. Never before have we been able to finish a season so quickly here in Nyssa, Oregon.  We owe it to the nearly perfect conditions that allowed the season to move steadily along.


Initially, ideal warm weather matured our onions quickly which allowed us to start our harvest season earlier this year, at the end of July. By starting earlier, and harvesting our early varieties sooner, we were able to harvest later varieties sooner too.


Additionally, harvest weather conditions were warm and dry – allowing three solid weeks of steady harvest with only a single day of rain. With no interruptions, the harvest progressed quickly without complications or damage from weather conditions. Now that ground harvest is finished, we will be supplying the market with our storage onions for the rest of our shipping season. Our onion fields will rest, or be planted with alternate crops to keep the soil healthy and ready for next season.


The valley is 1,300 loads ahead of last years’ numbers this time last year. This milestone season is a great indicator of seasons to come.

Watch our harvest video below!

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

New Packaging Design Released by Owyhee Produce

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - 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. 

The Art of the Onion Contract

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Thursday, June 05, 2014
For those who don’t deal with onions on a daily basis, onion contracts can seem like a foreign concept. We’d like to share our knowledge of the onion market so that you can have a better understanding of the benefits contracts offer – for your day-to-day business and your bottom line. Shay Myers, a local Grower/Shipper, and John Vlahandreas, a Veteran Onion Buyer, answer the FAQ’s regarding contracts based on their years of experience:

 

When is a good time to contract?

Shay- The best time for a customer to come to me for a contract is a month or more before my planting season even starts. There are many ways to grow an onion: you can focus on size, single centers, storability, sweetness, pungency, duration of season, or any other variable. If I know what to grow and how to grow it, I can assure the best results for my customers. That is why buying from a true grower/shipper/marketer is so important. While custom packers have volume, they have little control over the growing process.

 

John - Know what your customer’s needs are and what they are doing with their onions. Some may need onions more suitable to food service and others to the retail market. Knowing when to switch from old crop to new crop is also key. Contracts should be setup a month before the start of planting. This will assure the most consistent and competitive pricing. Contracting without the outbound business there is a gamble, but if you have committed customers you should contract year round.

 

 

Who should contract?

John - If you are in food service, processing, or other areas with consistent outbound pricing you should contract; anything with a structured retail price. Worst case scenario you should be at least 50% contracted. This will help hold you average and protect you in high and low markets.

 

Shay - I agree with John on all points except one. History has shown that the average “spot market” prices are $1-1.50 higher than the average contract price. So if you are going to error, error on the side of a contract. On average you will come out a winner. Also take into consideration that if a contract is higher than the “spot market” you are usually talking about $.50 to $1.50. On the other hand, if the “spot market” is higher than the contract you may be talking as much as $10-$15! See the graph below for a clear picture of the savings.

 

With whom should you contract?

Shay - As a Grower/Shipper, of course I think you should contract directly with the grower. Working directly with the grower you can get your onions grown the way you need them, especially if you go to them early. If you contract with a “custom packer” you won’t have the same type of control. They will bring onions in from many different growers, almost all of whom are looking at maximizing their yields, which may have an impact on your quality and length of shelf life.

 

John - Contract with the person you are the most comfortable with. You may wish to contract with a larger company because they will have more shippers to turn to cover a contract. It may also be smart to split up your contracts. You could do one with a marketer (broker) and one directly with a shipper.

 

Why may onion contracts be more important than contracts for other agricultural commodities?

John - Onions are used in large volume across the country. Onions have a tendency to go up and stay up, unlike leafy items that go up in price, but quickly come back down. A contract will give you a steady control over the price of your onions so you don’t lose money in a time of high fluctuation.

 

Shay -Onions are not like other commodities, they are sold on a world market. Weather, draught, and disease in places thousands of miles from the USA can have dramatic impacts on the market here in the USA. On the other hand, commodities that can’t be shipped across entire oceans, and are destined to be sold domestically, tend to be less volatile over the long- term.

 

 

Some would argue that following a year with high prices, that it is a wise time not to contract as farmers like to “chase money”, but with onions that isn’t always a wise move. Like other commodities, the down swing on onions may be 20% when compared to the spot market, but the upswing can vary from many other commodities. Instead of seeing just 20-40% on the upswing of the market, as is generally the case with ag commodities, it is not uncommon to see increases of 200% or more when it comes to onions. In other words if you don’t have a contract, it doesn’t take long to wish that you did.





Recent Posts


Tags


Archive