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Overwinter onions shipped early by Owyhee Produce

Its first 2011 new-crop onions were out the door on July 12, early by Owyhee Produce’s own standards and ahead of other Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion shippers as well.

According to Shay Myers, general manager of Nyssa, OR-based Owyhee, the overwinter varieties were planted in 2010 in a microclimate in the IEO growing region.

“Because of those factors, we were five weeks earlier than normal,” Mr. Myers told The Produce News during the third week of September. “We’ve already planted for the same window next year.”

Noting the early onions were steady in volume and there were no gaps in shipments leading up to regular harvest in September, Mr. Myers said that the first onions ran mostly to jumbos and “even some supers.”

He said, “We definitely have some learning to do, but we are satisfied with the yields and quality is good.”

Other early varieties started coming in during the first week of August, and the main harvest was due to start Sept. 27.

Most of Owyhee’s volume is in yellow Spanish Sweets, and the Granero was the overwintered variety, Mr. Myers said. He also noted an increase in both reds and whites this season.

“We doubled our red acreage, and we have more whites, although whites still make up a small percentage of what we do,” he said.

A new 18,000-square-foot storage facility was added to the Owyhee operation, and Mr. Myers said that it would replace an off-site building that had been previously used. The new storage will have higher-cubic-feet-per-minute airflow and will feature temperature control and refrigeration.

“Everything looks good,” he said.

Salesperson Robin Froerer said that sales have been “good — very steady,” and she added that Owyhee is sticking with its known markets. Last year, the company began packing in the “Boise State” label as part of a local promotion with Boise State University, and Ms. Froerer said that the promo is being conducted again this year.

The label features the university’s mascot, a bronco with the team colors of orange and blue. A portion of the sales goes to a scholarship fund at the university, and the campaign goes through the shipping season.

In its marketing program, Owyhee Produce is redesigning and revamping its collateral material, including point of sale, business cards and the company’s web site,