Featured image: (left to right) Riverfront Produce Owners Kenneth Bittick, Nick Gomeza, Berenise Gomeza, and VP of Sales and New Customer Development, Paul Reeping. Photos courtesy of OnionBusiness.com
Onion/produce veteran Paul Reeping, who has worked with Riverfront Produce owners Nick and Berenise Gomeza and Kenneth Bittick and wife Kristi for nearly a dozen years as a consultant and onion broker for their Idaho onion operation, is now working full-time at Riverfront as its Vice President of Sales and New Customer Development relations.
Paul told OnionBusiness he first started working with Nick during the 2011 onion season, helping with brokering his onions through Paul’s company, PR Sales.
He told us that “with the expansion that Nick and Berenise have accomplished, this season is officially my start physically at their facility in Payette.”
The family-owned and operated company grows, packages, and ships onions and pinto beans to a variety of domestic markets as well as markets in Mexico and Canada. All product is GAP and Primus-certified, and the operation is a member of Certified Onions Inc.
Offering yellow, red, and white onions from mid-September through early April, Riverfront provides a variety of size and pack options. Yellows are packed and available as super colossal, colossal, jumbo, medium, and prepack. Reds are offered as jumbos and mediums. Whites are available as jumbo, mediums, and prepack. Sweets
Paul also manages and brokers sales for potatoes and watermelons.
He said the early weeks of this new season were busy, and he noted, “We are implementing a lot of new packaging equipment along with all new software, to help handle the increased volume and addition of potatoes. We are currently running full crews on both lines. Through hard work and determination in quality, our products are in demand.”
While he’s totally “at home,” both literally and figuratively, in the Treasure Valley with onions, Paul’s career path has taken a number of interesting routes. “My past is varied,” he said.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Paul worked as a diesel mechanic, Mercedes-Benz technician and Mercedes-Benz salesman. He also worked as a Snap-on Tools technical representative before moving into the produce industry at Janicek Produce in 2000. He worked at Treasure Valley Farms and other operations outside of Idaho-E. Oregon.
Over the course of the past two decades, Paul has seen many changes in the onion industry, some good and some not so good. Looking at the grower community in the Treasure Valley of Idaho-E. Oregon, he said the coming years could make or break farmers.
“Farming will be more valuable than ever before,” Paul commented. “A good portion of our farm ground is transitioning into homes, warehouses, banks and apartments. I am certain it is the right time to support small farmers and keep them alive. When I started in the onion industry, there were over 600 onion farmers in the area. Now there are fewer than 200, which is very concerning and sad.”
Like other produce/onion production areas across the country, the Treasure Valley has been experiencing a severe labor shortage.
Paul said it’s among the top issues facing the industry.
“Foremost is labor, specifically the lack of motivated, qualified workers. Secondly, there are major transportation issues, especially because of labor as well. Thirdly, there’s the cost of fuel, fertilizers, land, equipment, water, etc.” And the key among solutions is the direction from the top, he said.
“We need a leader to bring our country together for a common goal and help our economy thrive,” Paul emphasized.
He also offered some solutions of his own, starting with “resolving the labor shortage.” He said, “Let’s encourage families to know the human spirit and understand it is good, especially when the goal is to help feed our country.”
Paul continued, “The produce industry as a whole would benefit if we came together to educate the American people of the elevated cost of production. I call it from seed to package. In my opinion, this is the most overlooked topic in our industry.”
He said, “I grew up in a city, and I believed that food just showed up in the stores. Now I have a completely different perspective on where food comes from. And with the ever-increasing need for food safety, this alone has increased prices on its own.”
Paul also lauded the Gomezas, saying, “My primordial motivation for joining the Gomeza Farms is their philosophy of hard work, dedication, and intense family commitment to being farmers and producing nourishing food for all people.”
Check out more photos from Riverfront’s onion and potato production. Photos were taken Dec. 14, 2022. Click on the image to enlarge and scroll.