In a joint statement on April 19, two prominent Idaho-E. Oregon onion operations announced they have formed an exclusive working arrangement, and starting with the 2021-22 onion shipping season Idaho Falls-based Eagle Eye Produce will handle all sales and marketing for Central Produce Distribution Inc. of Payette, ID.
Lance Poole, executive vice president of Eagle Eye, said his company, with its year-round onion program, welcomes the growth brought by Central.
“This expansion will allow us to strengthen our onion growing, packing, and shipping capabilities immensely,” Lance said, adding that the move “aligns with our overall mission to be the Partner of Choice to our customers with smart, controlled growth by diversifying to key geographical locations, bolstering our supply, and growing our overall year-round onion programs.”
Central Produce Dist., which is made up of two primary family farms – WBH Farms of Nyssa, OR, and Starr Island Farms Inc. of Ontario, OR –
brings a “strong heritage with decades of experience growing and shipping onions in Western Idaho and Eastern Oregon,” the release noted.
Ray Burzota, president/GM of Central, said, “Eagle Eye Produce has built a great name and reputation within the potato and onion market, and they bring the sales and marketing expertise which meshes nicely with our decades of experience packing, growing, and shipping high-quality onions and potatoes. We’re optimistic about what the future will bring, and we’re looking forward to a great first season.”
And Jason Pearson, director of onion sales at Eagle Eye’s Nyssa office, told OnionBusiness, “All sales will go through Eagle Eye.” He noted that longtime Central sales agent Dan Phillips will be also handling sales for Eagle Eye from his Payette office.
Sherise Jones had the opportunity to visit the Eagle Eye Produce Nyssa sales office and speak to Jason about the recent remodel. “We have a great location here on Main Street in downtown Nyssa,” he said. “It’s close to the packing shed, and we’re located in what we consider in the heart of onion country.”
Jason added, “We’ve wanted to make this space an inviting place to work and welcome customers for a while now, and we’ve worked hard to pull it all together. From floor to ceiling, everything is new, and the best part is we have room to grow. As you can tell from our recent announcement, that’s pretty important to us.”
In addition to Jason, the Nyssa office is staffed by Joe Ange, director of business development, and Austin Wagstaff, whose family is part of WBH Farms and who had been with Central for four years in sales/marketing and grower relations, has taken the role of sales and grower relations for Eagle Eye.
Both the Eagle Eye/Fiesta Farms shed in Nyssa and the Central shed in Payette will continue packing, and Jason said total volume will be increased by about two-thirds.
“We are going from about 900,000 bags to 2.5 million bags,” he said. With yellows, whites and reds all offered, Jason said the expansion provides “opportunity to offer different pack-outs and sizes for our retail side.”
And, importantly, Central has a rail spur, which is a definite transportation advantage. Jason added that transportation will be handled by Eagle Eye.
“It’s a great opportunity for both sides,” he said.
Randy Bowns of WBH Farms agreed, saying, “As a family business, we have been impressed to see that Eagle Eye Produce runs like a family business. They work hard and are willing to help wherever needed to ensure we can both see the fruits of our labor. We are happy to be working with Eagle Eye Produce, and we feel it will further propel our businesses forward.”
Austin also added, “We have been impressed by the reputation Eagle Eye Produce maintains with its growers, employees, and partners. We share the same vision and strong values, and I look forward to expanding this program even further.”