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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.


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/



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! 

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! 

PMA Fresh Summit 2015 - Why We Go, What We Learn

Ashley Narvaiz - Thursday, November 05, 2015

With close to 20,000 attendees, the 2015 Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) Fresh Summit Trade Show held in Georgia broke records as one of the biggest expos to date in the produce industry. The true importance of PMA comes from this variety of participants, ranging from leading industry growers and shippers, marketing experts, and retail buyers – including those internationally. At Owyhee Produce, we have placed a priority on attending the various shows PMA has to offer and this year we expanded the group we brought with us. Read below to hear all about it!



“This PMA show was unlike any of the other eight I’ve attended – not only was it much more upbeat and active but instead of perusing booths alone, I had along members of my team who had never been to a show before. It shifted my perspective of the show, reminding me of how immense and overwhelming the magnitude of PMA can be. Not only is the produce industry incredible in size, but it’s built by a lot of hard-working people who get their unique products to stand out to businesses. I can’t wait for the PMA Food Service Show in Monterey, CA in July of 2016 where Owyhee Produce will be an exhibitor for the first time!”

- Shay (General Manager of Owyhee Produce)




“It was great to be at PMA with everyone in our group – to see everything through their eyes and perspectives. I think we walked around 11 miles the first day visiting just a portion of all of the booths. It was great to see old friends and to meet new ones I’d only spoken to over the phone. I truly believe that PMA is a necessity for anyone in the industry – it’s where you absolutely need to be!”

- Robin (Operations Manager)


  

            

“When we first entered PMA and looked down on all of the displays and banners that filled the massive room it was like a sensory overload compared to what we see in our valley. I walked away amazed at the endless opportunities that lie in the produce industry. Not only is the market huge, but it’s filled with really friendly people. I met a ton of vendors who were really excited about the products they had to offer and that’s what interests me about the industry - that personal interaction. PMA was an incredible and unforgettable opportunity to enter the world of produce sales for the weekend.”

- Keilee (Shay’s Sister/Receptionist/Little Bit of Everything)




“As a first-time PMA attendee, it was eye-opening for me to see the produce industry as a whole, compressed in one place. The show was incredibly large but simultaneously very well organized. From a communications perspective it was compelling to see the innovations companies are using to present their products to the public and great to meet the successful people behind nationally recognized brands. I’m excited to design our Owyhee Produce booth for the PMA Food Service show in July of 2016 and participate alongside the great people I met at the PMA Fresh Summit.”

- Blake (Marketing & Communications)


   

(last two photos courtesy of PMA)


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!


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