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Sweet Clover continues expansion mode

by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar | July 08, 2010
A new face on the sales team, two new growers in the "family," new packaging and a doubling of organic onion volume make up a portion of news out of Sweet Clover Produce's Walla Walla, WA, office.

In a June 28 interview, Sales Manager Bill (Sweet Willie) Brownfield told The Produce News that Walla Walla Sweet onions were shipping, and new-crop yellows, reds, whites and Sweet Clover Sweets would begin shipping around the week of July 19.

Two new growers, Fernando Enriquez in the Walla Walla Sweet deal and Mercer Farms in organics, will add volume to the 2010 season. Working with Mr. Brownfield and his son, Pat, this summer is Mitch Brownfield, Bill’s son and Pat’s brother.

“Mitch will be working sales and client relations,” Bill Brownfield said, adding that the 29-year-old Iraq war veteran brings a unique perspective to the job. In 2005, Mitch Brownfield was awarded a Bronze Star for service during 2004. The younger Mr. Brownfield was mobilized to Iraq in 2003 and remained in that country through March 2005. Most of his tour of duty was spent escorting convoys around Baghdad.

“He was given the Bronze Star for saving people’s lives,” the elder Mr. Brownfield said.

Attaining the rank of Sergeant First Class this year, Mitch Brownfield was also a drill sergeant at Fort Knox, KY, and he most recently served with security police at the Nuclear Reservation at Hanford, WA, north of Richland.

A rotator cuff injury has sidelined him from his military and security service, but Mitch Brownfield said he is game to work in the onion industry.

“I grew up in this business,” he said, “and I definitely bring the experience of dealing with people to my new job. Plus, I get to be around my family more.” He will also be around more onions, with Sweet Clover’s organic volume expected to at least double this year. Mercer Farms will be providing certified reds and yellows, Bill Brownfield said.

Citing warm weather, which he said has resulted in “ideal growing conditions,” Mr. Brownfield said that new-crop onions will likely start shipping the week of July 19. Hermiston, OR-based Grotz Bros. has reds, whites, yellows and Sweet Clover Sweets, and Mr. Brownfield said that the onions “look very good.”

He added, “We are expecting a very good percentage of jumbos the third week of July in all colors and all varieties,” and he added that the overall summer onion deal for Grotz Bros. will be up approximately 25 percent. “We will transition from Walla Walla Sweets into the summer onions and will ship through April 2011,” he said.

Also coming up are the popular Red Wing red onions, grown by both Grotz Bros. and Grigg & Sons in Quincy, WA.

“We will have Red Wings from August of this year through May 2011,” Mr. Brownfield said.

And he said that a new consumer carry-fresh bag has been designed for all of Sweet Clover’s organic and conventional onions and will be available in two-, three- and five-pound sizes.