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Fiesta’s Bybee: All-American onions offer advantages across board

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Fiesta Farms Vice President Marc Bybee, onion grower Dan Corn and Fiesta Chief Executive Officer Garry Bybee in an onion field near Nyssa, OR.

NYSSA, OR — From the sensory standpoints of better storage quality and superior taste to the 21st century sensibilities of heightened food safety and a reduced carbon footprint, domestic onions are ahead of the rest of the world, Fiesta Farms Vice President Marc Bybee said in July.

As the third generation of Bybees in the onion industry, Mr. Bybee works alongside his wife and corporate secretary, Tamara, and his father, Fiesta Chief Executive Officer Garry Bybee at the Nyssa, OR, packingshed and office.

The three are patriotic not only in words but also in actions, promoting American product and American ideals as they reach out to both an established customer base and a generation of new onion consumers with their message.

When asked why he believes Treasure Valley onions surpass any that are imported, Marc Bybee said, “It’s because we’re on hand and talk to producers and to buyers every day.”

He said the same doesn’t always hold true for offshore product.

“I don’t have the same confidence in imports, and I don’t understand why some produce buyers aren’t pickier about their fresh produce when they have the option,” he said. “I’ve been to other countries, and I know they don’t adhere to our strict practices.”

Garry Bybee added, “Americans buy according to price, and we still get a lot of produce from other countries. It baffles me how [other countries’ growers and shippers] do what they do and are not subject to the same regulations we are.”

Marc Bybee said that longer distances from field to market also create bigger carbon footprints as the result of shipping, and freight costs can also be higher. Furthermore, “at a time when the U.S. economy is, at best, so-so, our citizens should be buying domestic. If customers want to be patriotic, they should buy American-grown.”

Noting the sometimes underreported food-safety aspects of American dry onions, Mr. Bybee said that over the last decade traceability has improved dramatically.

“At the bag level it’s quite good,” he said. “Ten years ago a receiver could tell on a load whose onions he was getting. It could be narrowed down to grower and field.”

With the use of GPS by some growers today, onions can be traced to a more precise point, Mr. Bybee noted.

Testing for chemical residue, misuse and even for pathogens is done now by Fiesta’s growers on a field level, and at the shed the packer documents “common sense things like rodent control and cleanliness.” The shed practices are thorough, and documentation is increasingly vigilant, Mr. Bybee added.

The current and approaching generation of consumers as well as produce buyers rely on technology in their everyday lives, and Fiesta Farms keeps pace with its own upgrades on a regular basis.

“We have more automated weighing, and our storage system is monitored remotely, which has made it more efficient,” he said.

Although the Fiesta Farms principals are aware of the rapidly changing world, they hold fast to the tenets that have made America strong.

“We think you can parallel the onion industry and the American dream,” Marc Bybee said. “All of us here at Fiesta love our country and our military passionately. We support the Veterans Administration and the Wounded Warrior Project. Our country is important to us, and while we want to succeed on a personal and professional basis, we want our country to succeed, too.

“This is the greatest place in the world to live and to raise children no matter what anyone says.”