Onion Harvest and Grower Interview

Onion harvesting
Onion Harvest and Grower Interview - Videos

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Farm Management Risk Management Production Economics

More by Jayson K. Harper, Ph.D. 

Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education

More by Lynn Kime 

Michael Orzolek, Ph.D.

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Workers harvesting onions produced using the plasticulture system.

Workers harvesting onions produced using the plasticulture system.

Workers harvesting onions produced using the plasticulture system.

Workers harvesting onions produced using the plasticulture system.

Workers harvesting onions produced using the plasticulture system.

Workers harvesting onions produced using the plasticulture system.

Workers harvesting onions produced using the plasticulture system.

Workers harvesting onions produced using the plasticulture system.

Workers harvesting onions produced using the plasticulture system.

Workers harvesting onions produced using the plasticulture system.

My name is Matt Harsh.

my family and I operate Chesley Vegetable Farms here in Smithsburg Maryland we grow about 30 acres of mixed vegetables and another ten acres of small fruits and tree fruits. We sell at four farmers markets and Washington DC area. We also supply five Wegmen's grocery stores and work with a couple smaller wholesale accounts particularly two home delivery companies.

We're standing here in the middle of our onion field for this year. The main benefit of producing onions for us is it provides a good job for our guys early in the season.

We plant our onions in March typically and we don't have a lot of other things going on at that time of the year so it's a lot of work the get all these onions planted. This year we planted 200,000 so it was a very good job for them early in the year when we didn't have anything else to do.

They take a fair amount of care through the rest the year you have to go through and hand weed them a couple times to make sure they're clean around the holes until about middle of June when they start to bulb. At that point it's not quite as critical to keep the weeds out.

But then there's also big benefit us on the back end of the season in that we pull these dry them and we can sell them the whole way through December and sometimes into January so we can really extend our marketing season and it's not something I have to sell right away like a lot over other crops.

Our tomatoes and peppers and peaches you gotta sell right away. These onions we can dry them and and sell them well into the latter part of the year.

The two biggest challenges from a production standpoint are weeds. There are some herbicides but I haven't found one that's really all that good yet. It's hard to use herbicides on a black plastic production system so you really have to go through and hand weed them. I haven't found anything else that works other than two or three hand weedings. You really want to get the weeds when they are small because as soon as they start to get big you will pull on the onions out at the same time.

It's really critical to get them hand weeded right around the holes at the right time.The other major production problem is bacterial softneck.

It is a bacterial disease that the onions will get. They found that it's much worse and hot years and when the onions get heated up. We have not had a very hot season so that has not been much of a concern for us this year. We also use a lot of copper sprays which is very safe. I try to keep them covered with copper at least every seven to ten days or in advance of any major rain events or anything. I come out and and put a copper spray on top of all the onions and the we try to make the holes maybe when you see some the other video we try to make a hole big enough so the onions can actually come up out of the hole instead of them getting trapped under the plastic so they don't you heat up quite as much.

The marking plan for for these onions is to take them to our farmers markets, to sell them to the home delivery companies we work with and also to sell them to the grocery stores and that's worked really well for us last couple years.

The fact that we can dry and hold on is a huge benefit from a marketing standpoint everything else we grow is so perishable it has to be sold right away and these onions it's really nice to not have to sell these right away like we do so many other things we grow the fact that we can bag them and sell them in October November December really makes it nice for us.

They keep our wholesale customers coming back to buy other things we have because we can offer these onions and there are not a lot of other options around at that time of the year.

Other marketing options for them, I am I'm sure if we were to roll up to some of the terminal markets or places with them we could sell them onions. I know there's a fair amount of onions that go through the produce auctions up in Shippensburg an over in Leola.

We've never tried those marketing avenues we've stuck to selling them ourselves but I believe other people have done quite well selling those ways I mean.

It's a good crop for wholesale if you can get the volume up if you can get enough planted that you can hook up with the person that wants them wholesale we found that they can be a very good crop in and a good profitable crop and they're also great to retail

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