Megan Jacobsen looks back on her first year in industry
With its Brawley, CA, yellow onions coming in at a good pace, Oxnard-based Gills Onions is well into the April-November harvest from its three California growing areas.
According to Vice President of Sales and Marketing Megan Jacobsen, reds will start coming in next week and will also be harvested through the fall as the different areas come on.
“Our yellow onions are harvested from April through November in our three California growing regions of the Imperial County (Brawley), Kern County (Bakersfield) and Monterey County (King City),” Megan said. She noted that Brawley will finish at the end of May.
In the amazing photo/video report Megan provided OnionBusiness this week, you can get a bird’s eye (or GoPro, in this case) view of some of the Brawley fields being harvested. Megan said the videos feature the chopper and then the digger.
“Once these two machines pass through a field, the onions will stay there for two or three days and then are picked up and transported to our sorting facility in Brawley,” Megan said. After they’re sorted, the onions are loaded onto trucks and delivered to the facility in Oxnard. The videos also show the Brawley sorting facility and how the onions are placed in the correct bins so they arrive at the processing facility to be used in the best areas.
“We strategically time our onion planting and harvest to match our need for a year-round supply of onions to be processed,” Megan explained. “Our Imperial County (Brawley) onions are the first onions to harvest in California each year. Brawley gives us a strong onion supply as we make the transition out of storage onions. Kern County (Bakersfield) follows Brawley. A large amount of our onion supply is grown in this California region as it provides a great environment for short, intermediate and long day onions. And our last growing region is Monterey County (King City), which provides a large part of our storage onions. Every region has its strength and allows for Gills Onions to provide a steady, consistent supply of quality onions year-round.”
She added, “To give you an idea of timing, we start planting in Brawley in October/November, and we begin harvest there each year in April. For King City, we just finished planting four weeks ago and those are the last onions to harvest. We are literally finishing planting in King City, and we are already harvesting in Brawley! We keep our onion farming team busy.”
Gills also offers certified fresh-cut processed organic onions. “Although they are processed at our Oxnard facility, we do not grow our own organic onions,” Megan said. “But they are 100 percent USA grown! We have wonderful partners that supply our organic onion needs. “
A leader in the processed onion industry, Gills is one of the mainstays at the PMA Foodservice show in Monterey, and it is rolling out its new Diced Pickled Onion at the July show this year. “We are very excited. Here are a few of its features and benefits,” Megan said, noting the product has been made with consumers’ needs and requests in mind.
“Consumers have asked for food products containing natural, familiar and simple ingredients that are easy to understand and pronounce,” she said. “Our red onions are paired with five simple ingredients – water, citric acid, sugar, salt and natural flavors. No artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals.” The product is also Non-GMO.
“We are in the process of finalizing our Non-GMO Verification through the Non-GMO Project (www.nonGMOproject.org). Chefs, as well as their customers, can rest easy knowing their products are coming from verified non-GMO sources,” she said. The pickled onions are also Kosher Certified and gluten-free.
The new dice cut is both easy to use and easy to portion in foodservice, and Megan said the packaging is BPA-free, which is environmentally sound and consumer-conscious. “All packaging materials used are safe for direct contact with food,” she said.
Celebrating her one-year “workaversary” on April 1, Megan said the past year has been “incredible!” She said, “Being born and raised in agriculture, I have always loved and had a high level of respect for our industry. However, agriculture is big and has so many different segments. This past year I have truly enjoyed immersing myself into our very special onion world.”
She added, “My background has historically been permanent agriculture crops, and I’ve learned that the vegetable market is another ball game. The most fascinating part has been learning about how the onion market moves daily. The U.S. eats a lot of onions each day!”
And she has been a quick study, moving into her current position as VP of sales and marketing in October.
“I like to tease my boss and thank him for quadrupling my workload overnight,” she joked. But she was quick to add, “There is always a lot to be done working in our industry, and I am up for the challenge. As millennials would say, I am #Blessed with being provided this opportunity and having a boss and mentor like Steve Gill who believes in me. He has placed his trust in me for a job with a lot of responsibility and is willing to take a chance on a farm girl from Fresno County who knew not that much about onions 365 days ago.”
Megan said that on a more personal note, outside her job itself, “What I have loved most about working with onions is eating more of them. I have NEVER cooked with so many onions in my life. Gills Onions has become more active in social media this past year with my expansion of our marketing program, [and] between the recipes we share on our sites and the recipes I grab from the National Onion Association website and social media pages, I cook with onions all day, every day. Not to be too cheesy as a marketing person, I literally go to the store and buy Gills Onions three-pound bag of diced yellow onions to cook with. It makes life so easy for this ‘older’ millennial!”
View more photos of the recent Brawley, CA harvest, courtesy of Megan Jacobsen