NYSSA, OR — Kay Riley isn’t one to hide his love of country or his pride in its culture and achievements, particularly as they pertain to onions grown in the Treasure Valley of Idaho-Eastern Oregon.
In fact, Mr. Riley, general manager of Snake River Produce in Nyssa, OR, makes a strong case for the quality and wholesomeness of IEO onions as frequently as he can.
“We provide a safe product,” he said in summer 2011. “There has never, ever been a food-safety issue related to a dry onion.”
With a lifetime of produce experience — more than 30 years devoted specifically to onions and the office of National Onion Association to his credit — Mr. Riley is a believer in American exceptionalism. He was raised on a farm that produced tree fruit, berries, rhubarb and Christmas trees, and his paternal grandfather was a partner in a produce packing-shipping company in Salt Lake City. His maternal grandparents grew the famed Spanish Sweet Onions of the Treasure Valley.
And though he’s witnessed firsthand the changes to this country’s produce industry in the past several years, Mr. Riley champions domestic product as superior.
“The benefits of domestic are numerous,” he said in summer 2011. “Food safety is the number one benefit. American produce is maligned by the media almost non-stop, and I become very frustrated at the organic compared to non-organic argument because the chemicals we used today are tested again and again. The safety has been proven, but we continue to get health scares from media.”
He said while fresh fruits and vegetables are scrutinized, fast food often goes under the radar undetected.
“No one talks about the fact that produce doesn’t raise cholesterol. My blood pressure isn’t related to the banana I ate this morning. It’s just a fact that you’re better off eating more produce, and onions are at the top of the ‘clean 15’ vegetable items [tested for pesticide residue].”
Imported product is commonplace in today’s retail setting, and Mr. Riley said many countries do not adhere to safety standards equal or similar to those of the United States.
Snake River Produce’s traceability program includes a mock recall segment, and GPS is used. The company has received a superior rating from AIB for more than a decade, and its longstanding grower base is certified for Good Agricultural Practices.
The operation is also third-party audited in the field and in the shed and is a member of Certified Onions Inc., subscribing to the multi-level testing provided by the service through the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
“We have the capability of stickering each onion,” Mr. Riley added.
As the company increases its retail presence, new consumer packs were introduced in 2011. And in reaching out to a new generation of consumers as well as maintaining contact with longtime Spanish Sweet fans, a new web site designed and maintained by Transportation Manager-Sales Assistant Tiffany Cruickshank has brought Snake River into the social media forum with links to Facebook and a frequently updated blog.