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Sweet Clover LLC's Red Wing sweet onions certified to be pathogen-free

by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar | November 12, 2009
Tested by Edge Analytical Laboratories in Burlington, WA, Red Wing onions grown by Grigg Farms in Quincy, WA, and marketed by Sweet Clover Produce LLC in Walla Walla, WA, come with a certification that they are free of E. coli and Salmonella pathogens.

According to Lorin Grigg, grower of the famed single-center red, the testing is performed on all 400 acres of Red Wings at his farm.

"They are going to primarily restaurants," Mr. Grigg said of the onions, and he added that a specific customer requested the testing.

When he spoke with The Produce News in late October, Mr. Grigg said that the 2009 harvest was concluding, noting that onions will ship through the end of May.

"We have good size and yields this year," he said.

The certified reds make up a significant portion of domestically grown onions marketed by Sales Manager Bill (Sweet Willie) Brownfield and his son, Patrick, at Sweet Clover. A longtime onion man, Bill Brownfield also moves whites, yellow hybrids, certified sweet yellows (including Walla Walla sweets and Sweet Clover sweets) and organic yellows.

Also growing onions for Sweet Clover are Grotz Bros. in Hermiston, OR, which produces whites, reds, sweet yellows and yellows, and Froerer Farms in Nyssa, OR.

In early November, Mr. Brownfield said that Sweet Clover was shipping sweet Red Wings and both varieties of yellows. Organics are available, he said, noting that growing conditions this year in the Pacific Northwest made for "high-quality onions" in a good size range.

Emphasis is placed on the fact that Sweet Clover's products are American- grown and supplies are year-round. The domestic part of the onion equation is important to retailers, more of whom are requesting product grown in the United States, where it is subject to U.S. quality-control and food-safety measures.

"Our growers are certified in Good Agricultural Practices and are third-party audited," Mr. Brownfield said.