Were it not for the unpredictable weather in Colorado, there may never have been a Lusk Onion Co. in Clovis, N.M.
An earlier Lusk generation was among the pioneers of Colorado’s onion industry.
When his father sold the Colorado farm, it was Rolland Lusk who moved his family to the panhandle — the flat chunk of often inhospitable dirt that stretches from eastern New Mexico across northern Texas and into Oklahoma.
He managed the growing operations of McAllen, Texas-based Griffin & Brand in the Panhandle.
“Eastern New Mexico and west Texas was a good onion growing region back in those days,” said son Terry Lusk, partner in Lusk Onion Co. “Today there are very few onion growers left.”
Terry Lusk followed in his father’s footsteps working for Griffin & Brand for nearly a decade before launching a vegetable brokerage in 1982. Three years later, Lusk Onion Co. was born, a grower-shipper-marketer partnership of Rolland Lusk and sons Terry and Dan.
“We knew onions better than anything else, so that’s what we concentrated on,” Terry Lusk said.
As the company approached its first 10 years in business, the region’s onion industry began to falter. Today, Lusk Onion Co. grows onions no more. The company’s primary commodity is fresh pumpkins.
“We tried other vegetables,” Terry Lusk said. “Pumpkins have been good to us. We’ve found our niche.”
The area’s dry climate is ideal for growing pumpkins, he said. There are very few of the fungal disease problems encountered in more humid climates.
When it began growing pumpkins in the early 1990s, Lusk Onion Co. planted, harvested and marketed 50 acres of the commodity.
“We now grow 400 acres of pumpkins, and we’re planning to expand,” Lusk said.
“We ship about 500 truckloads of fresh pumpkins from early September to late October.”
The pumpkins, all destined to be carved into jack-o-lanterns, go to retailers throughout the Southwest.
“The weight of pumpkins makes it cost-prohibitive to ship them long distances,” Lusk said.
The Lusk Onion Co. staff — like its acreage — also is expanding. Two of Terry Lusk’s sons are joining the family business, and Dan’s son will join the company in the near future, Terry Lusk said.
The relatively short fresh pumpkin season gives the company flexibility to plant other crops. The pumpkins are planted in June, Lusk said, and the season is over four months later.
Between seasons, the dry, hot Southwest summers keep the staff busy at another family business, a bottled water company.
“We’re here for the long stay,” he said.
As the company celebrates its 25th anniversary and maps plans to expand planting acreage, the planting may not be limited to pumpkins. Lusk Onion Co. is considering adding other commodities to its inventory in the future, Lusk said.