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Onion Expert

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. 

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. 

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.


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