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Onion Expert

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.” 

 

 

 

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.

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.





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