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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. 


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. 

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!

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. 

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!

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

Late Season Onion Care Instructions

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Over the last 5-8 years we have dramatically improved our ability to extend the storage-onion shipping season.  The combination of hearty storage varieties, cold storages, and sprout inhibitors means that many we can now supply onions from right here in Oregon for 10 months of the year.  However, with the advantage these better skinned varieties come with there are also a few characteristics that must be managed in order to minimize shrink and maximize profits.

Later in the season you may begin to see green specks in the center of the onions.  This little green speck is what we call an internal sprout.  This happens naturally as the onion goes through its life cycle and this is a very manageable issue.  If an onion is kept cool it will take, at least, several weeks for the internal sprouts to become external ones.

Here are a few pointers:

  1. Keep onions cool (35-45 degrees) (While these temps may cause a bit of translucency, don’t worry it will go away with just 12-24 hours at 45 or higher)

  2. Keep onions well ventilated, the more air the better (Our storages run 34-36 degrees and have constant air flow.)
  3. Keep onions dry (Our storages run 55-65% humidity.)

  4. If you have to choose between dry and warm or humid and cool….choose humid and cool

  5. Avoid sudden changes in temp as the papery skin will draw-in and hold moisture

  6. No room in the cooler, try air stacking the bags to allow air to reach the center of the pallet

  7. Plan on keeping onions for 3 weeks during the later part of the storage season… treat them a bit more like you might an apple.


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