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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.

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/



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!

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! 

From the Farm: Employee Highlight

Ashley Narvaiz - Thursday, January 28, 2016

"His hands look like this, so mine can look like this."



Kyle Wheeler has been farming all his life. From running a hay business with his Dad growing up, to working in our fields now Wheeler says, "Once a country boy, always a country boy."


Wheeler has worked for the last 2 years as an Applicator for us - going over our fields with fertilizers to help each of our crops grow and stay healthy. 
 

After being brought up in the farming lifestyle, Wheeler enjoys being out in the fields every day. Once in a while, he'll have the chance to take one of his kids on a tractor ride or they'll meet to have lunch together.


At Owyhee Produce, we couldn't be more thankful for our farmers like Kyle Wheeler that work hard every day and value family as much as we do. 

Christmas Trees and Freight Adjustments

Ashley Narvaiz - Wednesday, December 09, 2015

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 one of the top Christmas Tree producing states in the nation. What you may not know is that these farm-grown festivities bring 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 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. 


During this season, freight has been great up to this point. While the holiday prices are better than they were last year, the rush of Christmas trees has still affected our loads. 

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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