Speaking three weeks before the first onion was expected to be harvested, L&M Cos. General Manager Tracy Fowler said the firm was anticipating an excellent California crop because of the “perfect growing conditions” that have materialized this year.
“Of course anything can happen, but the crop looks excellent,” Mr. Fowler said on March 26. “We have had perfect growing conditions all season.”
While technically anything could happen, the desert growing region where L&M Cos’ California onions are produced is not likely to yield poor weather or even much rain as spring takes hold. “The biggest threat is probably high winds,” he said.
L&M runs all of its California onions through a Calipatria, CA-based facility in the Imperial Valley. “We do not do any field packs,” said Mr. Fowler. “We are fully certified GFS with HAACP audits at the farm and packing facility. We are proud of our operations.”
The operation is a joint venture with Troy Caston Farms, Ryan Williams and Troy Smith Packing and L&M Cos. This is part of the Griffin and Holder acquisition the L&M made four years ago, which gave them a strong foothold in the onion business.
Mr. Fowler said the California operation will offer production from mid-April to about June 4. From there, the company will move to New Mexico where it has another joint venture with Carzalia Valley out of Columbus, NM. That growing region typically has onions in the summer months of June, July and August, overlapping a bit with the next district which is the Rocky Ford region of Colorado.
This year, however, L&M has added a wrinkle with a sizeable late summer deal in western Kansas. Though Mr. Fowler could not say if there were some small onion growers in that region, he felt fairly certain boasting that L&M will be the only major onion shipper growing in Kansas this year.
“We are venturing into a new onion crop in Kansas this year,” he said. “We planted 300 acres.”
He added that lack of water in the Rocky Ford region has led to decreased acreage there and the addition of the Kansas crop. “There is plenty of water in Kansas,” he said. “That’s not a problem.”
The grower partner had grown some onions for Griffin and Holder in the past so he is not completely new to the crop, though Mr. Fowler said he is largely a corn and wheat grower.
The Kansas production will be taken to the Rocky Ford facility, which is about 200 miles away, and packed there.
Mr. Fowler reiterated that the lack of water is a very serious problem in Rocky Ford and so this Kansas foray may prove to be very important. He added that high winds are the biggest issue to deal with so the grower has planted wind rows to help mitigate that issue.
The L&M executive said the California production over the next six or seven week deal should yield about 550,000 50-pound sack equivalents, which is how L&M sells most of their California crop.
“We will be shipping them all over the country this year, as in the past,” he said. “We pack all consumer packs, including, bins, quicklocks, drawstrings and most every standard pack units. This includes carton stickered sweets.”
The company’s California acreage has risen about 10 percent to 325 acres this year.