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J.C. Watson ‘turning challenges into opportunities’

Transitioning into the 2018-19 Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion shipping season on Aug. 10, J.C. Watson Packing Co. in Parma, ID, saw not only an earlier start to the season but also a smooth one.

“The season has been going very well,” J.C. Watson President Jon Watson said in late August. “The onions are moving at a good pace, and our early crop has been exceptionally good.” Noting the first onions to come in were “a bit smaller than normal,” Watson said the storage crop was “sizing nicely, and we’re looking at an average size crop overall.”

watson-line J.C. Watson Packing line running early red onions in August and early September, with the storage Red Wing variety to come later in the season. He added that harvest is expected to be complete by mid-October.

The positive report came as the company worked quickly to add more refrigerated storage, replacing capacity that was lost when a fire consumed one of the company’s newest temp-controlled storage facilities in early July.

“We are rebuilding with the same Tolsma technology,” Watson said, saying the new storage will “be operational to fill by the end of storage harvest.”

In addition, the company has reefered all its loading facility and packed product rooms, which Watson described as “a real boon for the earlies.”

He said, “We’re working hard on controlling the temperature before we load and the balance to the receiving point.”

That, he said, includes work being done on “an innovative loading point that will be starting operations as this season continues.” Watson said the facility includes the lease of 64-foot rail cars.

“We’ll be doing trials this year to prepare for next year,” Watson continued, noting that as issues and incidents present themselves, “We can continue turning challenges into opportunities.”

Going into September, the fourth-generation grower/shipper was moving all sizes and colors, and Watson said, “We’re harvesting whites that look absolutely beautiful. We still have a large amount of some of our early reds, and we’ll be getting into our Red Wing storage variety.”

The starting market was steady, and Watson said it was good for the early crop. “As California finishes, Treasure Valley volume is steadily increasing,” he said in late August.

“We’re in a year-round program,” he said. The company moves onions from California with packing partner Harris Fresh “to service our partners and customers, and by September we’re back up in Idaho.”

And with the Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion season progressing and work being done on a loading point, J.C. Watson Packing is also working on a housing project for both its seasonal H-2A and its full-time employees.