Featured image: VIP photo from 2011 Idaho-E. Oregon “In-Person” VIP Field Tour event
Drawing on the successes of past in-person VIP tours as well as last year’s virtual event, the Idaho-E. Oregon Onion Committee’s Promotion Committee has opted to host one of each this season.
The live tour is being planned for late September or early October, with a firm date to be announced soon. Organizers said they are prepared to host up to 18 buyers and can tailor the event for any group size up to that number, with a full slate of activities being considered. The Virtual VIP Tour will take place this year Oct. 10-25, with the goal to build on last year’s presentation that involved eight shippers and more than three dozen buyers.
The return to the in-person VIP tour comes after several years’ absence, although funding for just such an event had been secured in 2020. Traditionally 15-18 buyers from across the nation have visited the Treasure Valley during the live tour years, taking part in networking opportunities such as luncheons and dinners and also visiting several shippers’ facilities and onion fields. The tours were hosted during the fall and late season harvest, which provided a comprehensive view of how onions make it from field to receiver. Outside activities such as Boise State football games and whitewater river rafting were also frequently included.
However, in the 2020 wake of COVID-19 and its travel and gathering restrictions, federally secured grant funding through the Idaho Department of Ag for the live tours was redirected, and a comprehensive virtual tour was developed. It featured video visits to numerous Treasure Valley shippers, with sales and other personnel providing voice-overs and filmed interviews. The late-October to mid-November Virtual VIP Tour also gave each participating shipper a separate and secure welcome page on the USAOnions.com website, with downloadable contact/information sheets available.
More than three dozen invited and approved buyers from around the country took part during the tour’s three-week posting.
Explaining the Promotion Committee’s decision to host both a virtual and live tour in 2021, Chairman Marc Bybee said, “While we hope to be entering a post-COVID world, we all still face a lot of unknowns going forward. So having both options should facilitate everyone’s concerns while showing our optimism that normality can resume.”
The virtual tour, he went on to say, “is a great opportunity for each individual shed to plan, present and edit their unique spin on what they might have to offer. It’s a chance to make and star in your own infomercial while utilizing some professional guidance.”
Marc is with Eagle Eye Produce and heads up the shipping operation at Fiesta Farms in Nyssa, OR. He took part in 2020’s virtual tour and commented, “I can say it’s a fairly painless production, and shippers should not feel intimidated by the process.”
He also pointed out the well-recognized benefits of in-person visits, saying they go far beyond “a vacation for our customers.” Marc said, “This is a chance to educate and inform. While we know this can be done well virtually, we believe there is nothing better than an in-person visit, a chance to walk in the field or shed, to hold an onion in hand and have its characteristics explained by someone with generational knowledge.”
Also, Marc said, “We always hope these tours create stronger relationships between the shipper and buyer but these visits undoubtedly also make the visiting buyer into a better asset for their own company.”