With a history that spans not only 103 calendar years but also the significant changes brought on by automation and technology, J.C. Watson Packing Co. in Parma, ID, is among the elite class of family-founded and family-operated companies that continues to pass from generation to generation.
In fact, Bradley Watson, son of company President Jon Watson, is the fourth generation to work at the same Parma location.
Jon Watson said the onion growing/packing/shipping operation started as two five-acre apple plots that were purchased sight-unseen by his grandfather, James Christopher Watson, in the early 20th century. J.C. Watson was a pharmacist in Iowa who fell in love with Idaho when he and his wife, Emma, visited Parma to check on the investment in 1911.
Soon after settling into the Parma community, J.C. started his own company and became a produce shipper.
In 1929 the Watson company became one of the first trading members of the Blue Book, and to this day it is the only onion shipper that has been a Blue Book member for that length of time.
Over the years the company shipped a wide variety of produce, but during the Great Depression it narrowed its list to potatoes, onions and apples, which it shipped all during World War II.
For many years Jon Watsons father, James Frederic, better known as Jim, ran the company and Jon Watson took the helm when his father passed away in the 1980s. Working along side him has been his wife, Margie.
Though it upholds James Christophers founding principles, J.C. Watson Packing Co. is now totally devoted to onions, and in that industry segment it keeps pace with rapid-fire technology and with changing industry demands.
For instance, red onions are increasing in demand, and Watsons farming operation grows more each year, up 5 percent in 2014 over 2014.
And in technology, Bradley Watson, vice president of the company, and Colbie Libsak, crop manager and husband of Jon and Margie Watsons daughter, Emily, are familiar with precise farming methods that include drip irrigation operated from cell phones, GPS tractors and digital radios for communication.
As Jon Watson looks forward to a fifth generation coming into the business someday, he said J.C. Watson Packing Co. will maintain its focus on year-round onions while adhering to rigorous food safety protocol and staying abreast of the latest technology.
Those elements, he said, are the basis of the company. Its what we do, he said.