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Nyssa, OR-based Owyhee Produce kicked off the 2010 asparagus season in mid-April, and according to Robin Froerer, company principal and head of the sales team, shipments are expected to continue through mid-June.

Ms. Froerer, daughter of Owyhee founder Owen Froerer, told The Produce News April 6 that she expected asparagus to start shipping within a week to 10 days. "We ship under the 'Ida Spear' label," she said, noting that the early grass will come from the family farm's 150 acres. Ms. Froerer's son, Shay Myers, oversees harvesting and moving the asparagus from the fields to the hydrocoolers.

"We will be removing approximately 50 acres of old crop," she said. Ms. Froerer went on to say that the operation has another 40 acres that will come into harvest this year, keeping the acreage close to the same or slightly less than last year.

"It should be a fairly normal season, with demand being up and supplies being down," she said, adding that weather has been kind to the 2010 crop. Owyhee packs most of its volume in 28- and 11-pound pyramids; it sells to the fresh market, with a small volume going to private picklers. Shipments go nationwide and into Canada, and Ms. Froerer handles most of the sales with assistance from Brenda Hittle, who has worked the deal for eight years.

Noting that there is less asparagus volume overall this year, Ms. Froerer said that the outlook for the season looks good.

"From what I hear, growers have been taking out their crops because over the years, prices have not been high enough for the cost of labor that this crop calls for. Asparagus is extremely labor-intensive -- from picking to receiving, packing and shipping. Each spear is handled between eight and 12 times before it makes it to the grocery shelf," she said.