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Sweet Clover increasing onion production for 2014

Looking to bump up its overall summer production significantly this year, Sweet Clover Produce of Walla Walla, WA, began planting new-crop onions in the Northwest during the week of Feb. 17.

According to Sales Manager Bill (Sweet Willie) Brownfield, the company is still shipping 2013 storage single-center Red Wing reds from Quincy, WA, as well as sweet yellows and yellows. Brownfield said 2014 planting began about a week later than normal, and the famed Walla Walla Sweets, Washington’s State Vegetable, are expected to start shipping the second or third week of June.

“We’re sticking with the same program we’ve had for some time,” Brownfield said of varieties, adding that the increase in production is part of a long-range plan and is across the board for organic yellows, organic sweet yellows, organic reds, early whites, yellows, sweet yellows and reds.

“We plan to be up in summer production between 30 and 40 percent,” he said.

sweet-clover-25-pound-cartoSweet Clover Produce’s Red Wing single-center red storage onion. (Photo courtesy of Sweet Clover Produce)Brownfield said the 2013-14 shipping season has been good, noting that industrywide demand has exceeded supply.

“We’ve had a good year for shipping, and we’ve had excellent quality onions,” he said.

“We strive for high-end accounts and long-term programs, and customers who want to be part of our summer and fall program are encouraged to call us now,” Brownfield said, adding that he and Pat Brownfield handle sales out of the Walla Walla office.

To maintain its year-round supplies, the vertically integrated grower, shipper and marketer has onions from other growing areas.

Walla Walla Sweets, however, are grown only in the Walla Walla Sweet Onion district, which is under Federal Marketing Order 956 adopted in 1995. The region has produced Walla Walla Sweets for more than a century, and Sweet Clover’s grower base includes multi-generational farms specializing in the variety.

As the season progresses, the Walla Walla Sweets will be followed by Northwest organics in mid-summer, and the new crop of storage Red Wings will also start shipping during that time frame.

Pack options include the Carry-Fresh mesh bags, which have seen good reception at retail and are available in two-, three- and five-pound sizes. The company also offers a 25-pound specialty pack carton.