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Bland anticipates good volume of Empire-Sweets this season

Although New York state was plagued by rainy conditions during this year’s onion planting season, Bland Farms LLC expects to have good volume and a highly promotable Empire-Sweets crop.

“This spring we had a challenge,” Michael Hively, the company’s chief financial officer and general manager, told The Produce News June 14. “We had too much rain.” He went on to say that the rich field soil became mucky, making it difficult to plant. “We had to pick and choose the fields to be planted,” he added.

But conditions have moderated, and the onions are growing. “I was up there three weeks ago,” Mr. Hively said. “The crop looked excellent.” The plants have a good canopy on them.

Bland Farms’ corporate headquarters is located in Glennville, GA. The company is the nation’s largest grower and shipper of sweet onions.

This is the third season the company has marketed Empire-Sweets. Growing operations for Bland Farms New York LLC are located in Cato, NY.

The addition of Empire-Sweets to the company’s extensive onion manifest allows Bland Farms to provide its customers with one-stop shopping when it comes to their onion purchases.

Mr. Hively expects the harvest to begin during the first week of August, a little behind normal timetables. The crop is typically allowed to dry in the fields for about a week. But Mr. Hively said that if rainy weather patterns persist during harvest, the onions will be moved to dryers for curing.

Richard Pazderski, director of sales and marketing, said that the variety is the dominant type onion for the region during this time of year. “Empire-Sweets are a midday variety that, if grown correctly, have a sweet profile,” he said. “This onion is typically high in sugars.”

Bland Farms conducts both in-house and third-party pungency testing. The procedure typically places the sweetness of Empire-Sweets at three to four micromoles of pyruvic acid.

“We’re expecting to have good sizing,” Mr. Pazderski said of this year’s crop. “We expect ample volume.” Last year Bland Farms installed a new four-lane mass air flow line at the Cato facility to perform high-speed grading and electronic sizing.

The majority of the crop is marketed in the Northeast. According to Mr. Pazderski, the company also services some clients in the Midwest. A wide variety of packing options such as consumer bags, bins and cartons are available to the company’s retail partners. Packaging includes high-end graphics.

In addition to its Empire-Sweets, Bland Farms grows and markets hybrid yellow onions.