Thursday, September 23, 2010

Idaho Onion Harvest

Freeman Farms near Middleton, Photo and interview by Steve Ritter

12 Questions for Farmer Sid Freeman

Middleton--Sid Freeman raises a variety of crops, every thing from beets, spuds to beans and onions, on this day the dust is flying and tractors are running up down the fields and Freeman is grinning from ear to ear because markets look so good.

So what is it today?
We're loading onions, yellow onions.

So where is this crop of onions headed?
My onions are headed to Partners Produce where they'll end up in frozen bags of mixed vegetables and few will end up in Costco.

So how did you prepare for this day?
We topped these onions and set them up in wind rows, that machine there will load the onions onto the trucks. It loads two windrows at a time and then hauls them over to the packing shed from there they’ll load the trucks and pack them out.

How much per acre to grow these onions?
It costs us about $1600 per acre to grow them, get them in the box and packaged.

How many onions per acre?
We weigh it out in hundred weight and we average about 650 in the yellows and this crop will be close to the average.

How much will you get pricewise?
Ill get about a $1000 per acre in the black.

Tell us more about your onions?
This variety is a vaquero; the vaquero is an old variety. It sometimes doesn’t produce a lot per hundred weight but it’s a good, solid onion. It’s very dense and keeps well in the shed. It has a very globe shape and it’s a decent quality onion as you can see.

So your thoughts on the crop overall?
I think the crops on the average look pretty decent but they’re late, the beans are two weeks late behind last year. It goes to reason that there has been a lot less BTU’s this year. These days you can’t measure a crops maturity by the number of days it’s been in the ground. You have to have the BTU’s in order to keep it growing and to reach maturity.

What are the practical uses of these onions?
I think an onion like this would be very good on your hamburger or any American consumer’s hamburger.

How many acres of Onions?
We have 45 acres of onions this year, 15 acres of red, 30 acres in yellow.

Average price?

The Yellows we have an average contracted rate of $5.50 per hundred weight, the reds, medium sized reds, we’ll get $10-12 dollars per hundred weight. The jumbo sized reds we’re hoping to get $25 per hundred weight for those.

How does the onion market work?
Onions are fresh produce and this market is very volatile. It’s supply and demand all the way. The onions go in the market pipeline and you always hope for a half-full pipeline to get the good prices. Anything less than that? Well, the market really rises fast and prices drop with supply. When the market is full it falls apart very fast. In fresh produce it’s very easy to get an oversupply, but its been a very steady market this year. Reds are short, the market is good on reds but could end quickly when another harvest area opens up and floods the pipeline.

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