Owyhee Produce bouncing back from brutal winter blow

A look inside one of the six new onion storage sheds Owhyee Produce has built in Parma. ID. Heavy  snows in January destroyed three of the company's sheds at its Nyssa, OR location, so the company is relocating across the Snake River in Parma, where it's built the new storage sheds and is also building a new packing facility. (KBOI photo)

When the winter snows hit and collapsed three onion storage sheds at Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR, a division of Froerer Farms, they lost 25 million pounds of onions.

Most importantly, they almost lost their business.

They shored up the damaged packing facility in Nyssa, which could continue to operate.

But the destruction of the storage sheds meant the loss of a vital link in the process of getting the onions out of the ground and off to market and could doom the next harvest, which is now.

"We plant in the early spring," said Robin Froerer. "But we had just lost our storage units and we knew we couldn't plant the spring crop if we didn't have fall storage. We have to have a storage facility in order to have a crop to put into it."

"If we didn't have a location to put our crop, we'd be out of the onion business," said Shay Myers, general manager at Owyhee Produce. " We had to decide and decide quickly."

The Froerer family has been in the onion business since the 1950s. A lot was at stake -- a family-owned business with 50 fulltime employees, one of the largest onion growers in the region.

"That was tremendous hard for me," said founder of the farm Owen Froerer. That was my lifetime, building it up, and all of a sudden it was on the ground and we didn't have it anymore."

Owyhee Produce decided to relocate from Nyssa across the Snake River to Parma and invest $8 million to build six new high-tech storage sheds, each one able to hold six million pounds of onions.

The onions are now stored in bulk not bins and a fascinating underground wind tunnel pumps air through ventilated floors, keeping the onions fresh and extending storage capacity into late spring.

A new packing facility is also being constructed at the site, and is scheduled to be finished in November.

And yes, all the new buildings can bear more snow weight.

"Before we knew how insurance was going to settle, we were very uncomfortable, " said Myers. We didn't know how it was going to end. Now we have an optimistic look towards the future. We've made a lot of improvements and have many new opportunities."

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off