Produce people in general and, it seems, onion people in particular have a certain passion for their calling, and we love to bring stories of that passion to our readers.
This week our friends at Gills Onions in Oxnard, CA, share their philosophy about soil health, with VP of Sales and Marketing Megan Jacobsen providing a bit of background and a look ahead. What’s more, Megan blessed us with Gills Onion gardening gloves and onion seed packets so we could spread the love a bit at our home gardens. (Heart emoji!)
“Since our founding in 1983, Gills has explored new technologies and methods to help us maximize conservation and sustainability,” Megan said. “We understand that our success is tied to the success of the land where our onions grow. Healthy soil makes healthy onions.”
She continued, “For us to be the best, the fields need to be the best, too. Growing onions ‘The Gill Way’ means consciously farming — protecting the integrity of the land by understanding and reducing the impact we have on the soil and the surrounding environment.
Our onion-growing ‘prescription,’ as I like to call it, was personally developed by my favorite onion farmer, Steve Gill, and it ensures that our products are grown in the most environmentally conscious way — maintaining soil health and promoting ag sustainability.”
Megan said that everything “that happens to the soil, happens to our onions,” and she added, “So, we treat our soil with the utmost care. Soil science is absolutely key. We must understand the composition and microbiology of the soil and how it will interact with plant biology.”
It requires a bit of right brain/left brain thought. “By considering both sides of the equation in our farming — the plant and the fertile soil — our onions and the fields work together to strengthen each other,” she explained. “Our onion fields boost soil health with a balanced blend of macro- and micronutrients. These nutrients are the foundation of a stable soil environment. Thriving soil helps onion plants establish a larger, more aggressive root mass, which leads to healthier stalks and leaves!”
The upshot is a thing of beauty. Megan said, “Our unique onion-growing prescription creates a ‘dryer’ onion. With less water in the cells, these onions break down more slowly and resist the creation of that foul-smelling onion juice that accelerates the process of ‘going bad.’ With these practices in place, Gills can deliver a consistently fresh product all year long.”
What’s more, she said, “Our fresh-cut processed onions have a shelf life of 18 days. That means that even our farthest customers waiting for onions to arrive from California receive a product that still has about 10 days of freshness guaranteed.”
There’s much that goes into the process behind the scenes, with processing technology and farming hand in hand every step of the way.
“We operate one of the largest, most innovative fresh-cut onion processing plants in the world,” Megan said. “But with a plant capable of processing up to a million pounds of raw onions in a day, we know that sustainability is key. We understand that each growing region is unique. What promotes environmental health in one field may not apply in another. That’s why we work with our team to find the most sustainable practices for their location.”
That synergy brings big results. “Each day, we are learning more about sustainable ag practices and how we can protect the environment,” she said. “At Gills, we want to lead the charge for effective policies and practices that benefit all stakeholders — our business, our farmers, our customers and our earth.”
Passion personified! “By demonstrating responsibility and leadership, we hope to encourage environmentally-friendly initiatives in our nation and in our industry. Our ‘circle of life’ process starts at the seed, but continues on well past the time the fresh-cut onion box leaves our facility.”