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Double D doubles organic onion acreage in California

Double D Farms in Coalinga, CA, has doubled its organic onion acreage in California’s Central Valley this year and now will be doing 100 percent of its marketing in-house.

With farming operations in both Mexico and California, Double D Farms is a vertically integrated, diversified grower-packer-shipper that grows and markets an assortment of both conventional and organic produce items, but it focuses mainly on fresh organic produce for retail and wholesale customers.

In the onion category, Double D farms specializes in organic onions under the “Double D” brand, with a program that runs from early spring through summer and into the fall.

“We started our organic onion season down in Mexico, shipping out of Yuma, Arizona,” Gurdeep S. Billan, director of sales, said in a June 7 interview with The Produce News. “We had both red and yellow organic onions shipping out of that facility in Yuma” that were grown in the San Luis Valley of Mexico, just across the border from Yuma.

That deal was just wrapping up, and “we will be transitioning to the Central Valley here next week,” he said.

In California’s Central Valley, also known as the San Joaquin Valley, Double D will again have both red and yellow organic onions. They are grown in the vicinity of Coalinga, CA, in Fresno County on the valley’s West Side.

“Compared to last year, we have doubled our acreage in organic onions” for both red and yellow types, Mr. Billan said. “The basic reason for that is to continue to meet the growing needs of our customers.”

Double D is also growing an organic flat, red Italian onion variety called Red Spur, he said. “We have now planted about 15 acres of it. That is a specialty item,” an old variety but “new for the company.”

Double D has been growing organic onions in Coalinga for several years, starting with “a small planting due to a customer request,” he said. The program has “evolved into additional acreage year-by-year.”

At one time, the company also grew conventional onions in the Central Valley, but it now does only the organic, although it continues to sell conventional onions from an outside grower.

“We had conventional onions out of the south,” Mr. Billan said. But “up here, our company is affiliated with Harris Fresh,” which “supplies us with conventional onions.” Double D markets those under the “Harris Fresh” label.

“We also have organic garlic here,” an item that finds synergy with organic onions in the marketplace.

Also during the summer from the Central Valley, Double D offers “organic blueberries, which will begin here in about 10 days, and organic cantaloupes and organic super-sweet corn.”

The start of the company’s organic onion harvest in the valley has been pushed back somewhat due to cool weather, but despite that, the firm is “starting a little bit earlier than years past,” Mr. Billan said. “I think that has to do with … planting schedules” and other farming practices. Randy Johnston, the new general manager, is now “overseeing all of our farming operations,” and he has done “an excellent job on the growing side to not only improve our efficiencies but also our planting schedules to align with the needs of our customers.”

In prior years, Double D “was utilizing other marketing companies to market some of the crops,” but over the last three years, “we have been marketing more and more [in-house] under the ‘Double D’ brand. This year, we will be 100 percent ‘Double D’“ and will be marketing the entire crop in-house.

According to Mr. Billan, the company has realized that “in order for us to be successful on the organic front, we have to become more efficient in our growing practices” and to improve yields in order to be able to reduce costs and offer products to customers at prices “that are not equivalent but comparable to conventional markets.”

In order to “assist customers in growing their organic category,” he said, “we are aligning ourselves with key retailers, wholesalers and distributors cross the country to provide them with consistent supplies at costs that are competitive enough to where consumers are willing to purchase organics.”