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Shipping season underway for Idaho-Eastern Oregon onions

by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar | September 30, 2011

Although some areas in the Idaho-Eastern Oregon growing region experienced a later-than-normal harvest, consensus among industry insiders was that quality is good this year.

Candi Fitch, executive director of the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee based in Parma, ID, said in mid-September, “A cool and wetter-than-normal spring slowed planting, causing harvest to start a little later than normal in some areas of the growing region. However, the Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion season is underway, and we look to have an average crop with good quality and a consistent supply.”

While some growers reported delays of one to two weeks, others brought onions in closer to regular schedule. Some even harvested early.

Jon Watson, president of J.C. Watson, said that a good second half to the growing season and plants irrigated by drip allowed his crews to harvest about a week later than normal.

At Champion Produce Sales in Parma, President John Wong said that the 2011 season got underway on Sept. 6, “a little later than last year,” but he also cited high temperatures as the summer progressed and said that recent weather had been good for curing.

And Owyhee Produce, which ships out of Nyssa, OR, grows some of its overwinter product in microclimate conditions and was bringing onions in during mid-July.

Some sheds noted that more mediums and jumbos were coming in, but shippers expressed optimism that the season will be a good one.

According to figures provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 20,000 acres were planted and harvested in 2010, and area shippers noted stable numbers in their acres for 2011.

Ms. Fitch said, “We are excited as this shipping season gets underway. Our Marketing Director Sherise Jones has a great promotional program outlined with the theme for this year ‘All-American Winners,’ and we invite everyone to stop by the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion booth at PMA in Atlanta and visit with shippers, taste our onions and meet our special guest, Idaho model Chelsey Hersley.”