Courtesy Bybee ProduceNew weighing machines and palletizers at Bybee Produce, Prosser, Wash., should speed things up, says Jason Walker. While it’s too early for specific predictions on yields and prices, Jason Walker of Bybee Produce, Prosser, Wash., knows one thing for sure — the company’s packing lines will be moving faster this season.
Walker, vice president of sales and marketing at the family-owned farm, said new weighing machines and palletizers are on tap for the onion harvest, which began Aug. 1. He said the firm is set to begin shipping Aug. 12.
“The new equipment will speed things up and make us a little more efficient,” Walker said.
The father-son duo of Clyde Bybee and Neal Bybee has more than 8,000 acres in the Columbia River basin where they grow red, yellow and white onions. They are also in the sweet onion deal. Walker said the Bybee onion operation isn’t the largest in the region, but it is one of the biggest.
“We ship about 2.5 million 50-pound sacks annually, Walker said.
The company also ships organic onions, but the Bybees stopped growing them in recent years, instead opting to buy organics from a neighboring grower. Brands from the Bybee operation include Horse Heaven, Bybee’s Best, Global Gold and Prosser’s Pride.
Walker said a vertical-style, carry-fresh bag introduced last year will be back for the 2013 crop in 2-, 3- and 5-pound sizes.
In addition to working with domestic retailers and wholesalers, Bybee Produce has a strong export program. Depending on the global market demands, Walker said the company sends 20% to 40% of its onions to foreign countries, especially in Asia.
“The thing that differentiates Bybee Produce and Washington onions, is we grow a smaller, harder onion, which allows us to store and supply a good quality onion for up to 10 months,” Walker said. “This has allowed us to grow market share with end users both domestically as well as internationally.”