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After cool, wet weather, Fiesta Farms looks for long, dry fall

Into its fourth decade as a producer of quality onions from the Treasure Valley, Fiesta Farms Inc. understands Mother Nature’s mood swings. Cooler-than-normal temperatures and wet conditions characterized much of the current growing season. Looking forward, Vice President Marc Bybee put it this way: “We need a long, dry fall to get the crop put away well. Without it, we could have serious quality problems later on. We are longing for a ‘normal’ year to happen again someday.”

The company is located in Nyssa, OR, producing yellows, reds and whites. Fiesta Farms continues to make improvements to facilities to maintain high product quality. Last season, the company added a large-sized cold storage to its operation. “We really wanted to improve our quality near the completion of the season and gain the ability to lengthen the season out when desirable,” he told The Produce News on Sept. 15. “We want to deliver consistent, superior quality all season long.”

This year, Fiesta Farms installed a NEWTEC 3009XL consumer weigher that is specifically designed to handle product such as onions. “It seems to be a really nice piece of equipment, and we hope it gives us a leg up on consumer business,” Mr. Bybee stated.

The company packs product in 25-, 40- and 50-pound boxes, and participates in the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee’s promotional “Spanish Sweet” branding program.

Product is primarily marketed to foodservice. “Every customer is a key market for us,” he commented. “We are small enough that I like to think each customer can get that personal level of satisfaction and individualized need fulfilled. We don’t mind hard work and a challenge.”

On the food-safety front, Mr. Bybee said that Fiesta Farms continues its third-party audits.

Mr. Bybee had some words of praise for his father, Garry, who serves as Fiesta Farms’ chief executive officer. “Garry Bybee is one of the oldest — I mean most experienced — onion salesmen in the industry that is still active everyday behind a sales desk,” he chuckled. “He is legendary to the rest of us here at Fiesta, and most all who have worked with him. We can’t get rid of him, so would a few new customers please call him and keep him busy so the rest of us can get some work done?”

Mr. Bybee also offered a few observations about the state of the domestic economy. He said that he is worried that a perception that “the sky has fallen” could end up hurting agriculture. He also said that transportation rates and truck availability could be an issue this season. “Right now, it seems we are bidding up our own truck rates between the shippers in the Treasure Valley, which will hurt us more in competing with other U.S. growing areas.”