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Fagerberg in year two of organic onion program

Colorado Front Range onion grower-shipper Fagerberg Farms and Fagerberg Produce saw a good season with its first commercial loads of organic onions in 2017, and Ryan Fagerberg, company president and warehouse manager, said the certified production is a good addition to the overall program.fagerergyellows

“There are no major changes to acreage or varieties this year,” he said, adding that a few more acres are being farmed east of the main facility in Eaton.

The program remains largely the same: primarily yellows at about 75 percent and reds and whites split for the balance, he said.

“We have a field of yellow organics for the second year,” he noted. Fagerberg’s goal is “to size to mediums to line up with our program,” he said. “Demand is for mediums in the three-pound bags.”

He continued, “We will make some small modifications to our packing facility this off season that will hopefully make things more efficient next year. We want to be as flexible as possible, and we have an additional repacking line at our packingshed to give us added ability to sticker and to resort if we need to.”

During the third week of April Fagerberg told The Produce News it is off to a good start, with seeded onion planting finished at the beginning of the month and set planting at the halfway point.

Fagerberg said the high winds of mid-April missed his family’s operation. “We came through it OK,” he said. “We hadn’t had much emergence at that time.”

And, he said, “We should be able to finish up with our sets in about three weeks, weather permitting. We have a good planting crew this year, and the addition of H-2A workers has really helped out.”

He said the biggest benefit from the guest worker program, which involves 40 workers at Fagerberg Farms, comes during transplant season and harvest. “With H-2A we’re moving right along and making good progress,” he said. “Nothing’s perfect, and it’s still not very cost effective. The 40-week program ends May 10, and the workers go home for two months. Then we bring back the same crew on July 10 and start harvest in late July. They’re here for another 40 weeks.”

As with most other grower-shippers in the nation, Fagerberg has dealt with the transportation shortage.

“It’s always difficult to find trucks to go to certain areas,” he said. “The electronic logging devices certainly made things more difficult, and I don’t see freight costs going down.”

Coming into the 2018 crop season, Fagerberg said two new hires have been made. Rikki Huston, who is finishing her degree at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, has joined the sales staff and is also assisting in food safety and transportation. Huston is working the Walmart account, Fagerberg said.

On the farm, Zach Czarnecki is the new manager, Fagerberg added.