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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. 


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.


  



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!

Owyhee Produce Releases Sweet Onions!

Ashley Narvaiz - Friday, December 02, 2016

Owyhee Produce is proud to officially introduce its Sweet Onions to the open market. It’s taken three years to perfect the process, and now they are proud to offer two different varieties. 

To call an onion a “sweet,” it has to meet the right levels of sugar content and pungency. A regular yellow onion on the pyruvic scale of acidity or pungency sits around a 7 or 8. To be called a sweet it has to hit under a 4, with a super sweet being under a 2. Owhyee’s sweets sit between a 3 and 4.

The United States imports the majority of their sweet onions from Chile and Peru; a trip that spans 7-8,000 miles. Owyhee’s sweets are grown in US soil, by a third-generation family farm that employs dirt to dock safety regulations, and is involved in every step of the growing, packing, and shipping process. Owyhee’s sweets cost less and come with a much smaller carbon footprint.

Owyhee Produce’s Sweet Onions are available now until February and come in 40 lb. cartons or a range of 2-10lb consumer packs. Their sweet, mild flavor is best in raw form and will be a great addition to your holiday meals! 

It's Hard for Onions to Compete with Christmas Tree!

Ashley Narvaiz - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

25-30 million Christmas trees are sold in the United States every year! A product that costs very little to grow, makes for a great profit during the holiday season. Oregon is listed as the one of the top Christmas Tree producing states in the nation. What you may not know is that these farm-grown festivities bring serious competition for freight.

With the weather cooling down, we can’t ship our onions on flat bed trucks during the winter months, which limits our options for transportation. From a week before Thanksgiving to Christmas Day, Christmas tree shippers are feverishly shipping trees from coast to coast. With such a large profit return, tree shippers are willing to pay more for freight costs, simply because they can afford to. They have a month-long time crunch to make profit.

This leaves onion shippers like us having a harder time not only finding trucks but also paying the freight costs. Typically we see a 15-20% increase in delivery rates, especially to the east coast.

See more from trucking company DAT here: http://www.dat.com/blog/post/Christmas-Trees-Boost-Rates-in-Unexpected-Places

Mint Oil Testimonial

Ashley Narvaiz - Tuesday, August 09, 2016

From various fairs and shows, we have had so much fun sharing our mint oil with excited customers! We are so thankful to have met Nichole at a fair last summer and she was very excited to share with you why she loves our Owyhee Mint Oil best! As an essential oils lover, Nichole not only believes in the quality of our product, but also has a ton of recipes to share with our followers! 


Read below how Nichole met our Owyhee Family at the fair and has since become a part of our family!


I live and work in Central Florida. In August 2015, I came to Boise, ID for my first two week vacation in…well…forever. Who goes to Boise for their first vacation, right? Well I did, and it turned out to be AMAZING! 


You see, that day I discovered Owyhee Mint. Now at this point, I had peppermint oil but I hadn’t used it yet. Owyhee changed all that.  I was already familiar with essential oils and how they are made, so I first interrogated the poor sales staff how their mint was distilled and if it had any chemicals in it. Once I was assured that their product was 100% pure steam distilled with NO chemicals or additives, I was hooked. Not to mention they offered Spearmint and Natural Mint, which were two oils not currently offered by my oil supplier at that time. 


I also noticed that the two staff members who were offering their wares were so knowledgeable about the oils and so excited about all the uses for them that even I fell prey to their enthusiasm. From the first purchase I made at that fair to the second one, about two months later, the owners and operators of Owyhee Mints have been nothing short of an amazing team of customer service experts. My second order came in a nice little package with a box of candies and a small note thanking me for my interest in the product as well as the circled ingredient on the candies box indicating their mints were in it! How cool is that? This even impressed the hubby, who now by the way, uses my oils for himself! Hah, see? Should we tell him I just placed another order?


So by now you’re wondering why mint essential oils? What are they good for other than your toothpaste and gum? Well, let me count the ways: Mint is a natural cooling element. It can induce feelings of calm but also be a source of energy. Peppermint has been known to sooth the digestive track and it helps with headaches and muscle spasms. Spearmint not only smells amazing but it can be used as an anti-itch remedy. Bugs HATE mint! The smell alone sends them packing and here in Florida, we get those tiny sugar ants that love to come marching in, invading everything.  


 People have been using essentials oils for thousands of years. The Chinese, the Egyptians; the FloridiansJ. I like them because they come from the earth. When produced naturally; steamed directly from the plant and bottled without fillers, all essential oils offer numerous nutritional and medicinal properties. Mint just happens to be a biggie and I’m glad I found Owyhee and their oils. I encourage anyone interested to do their own research: make sure any essential oils you choose to use are pure therapeutic grade with no chemicals or fillers. Ask if they are safe for consumption or if only intended for topical application or diffusing for aromatherapy. 


Owyhee oils are steamed distilled (the right way), bottled naturally with no fillers and produced by a family company that loves not only their product but what the customer thinks about that product. I have had nothing but good experiences with the Owyhee family and will continue to use their mint oils!



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