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Riverfront Produce expands packing program, adds marketing exec

By
Kathleen Thomas Gaspar

Riverfront Produce, the packing/shipping arm of a vertically integrated operation with its sister company, NJ Gomeza Farms, based in Nyssa, OR, ramped up its packing program this year to include Idaho potatoes and upgrades to equipment and storages.

In addition, the Payette, ID-based company brought a new face to the company team in 2023 with Marketing Executive Chelssie Oates, who brings a decade of professional photography work as well several years of administrative experience.

Oates hit the ground running, building the company’s social media presence and conducting interviews.

“Our company is going far in the near future, and the owners knew it was the right time to bring someone on board with this kind of experience,” she said.

Oates noted that 2023 will see 5-10 packaging for onion and potato program, and she explained, “This season we are packing Idaho potatoes at our Payette shed. Normally we pack Oregon potatoes, but this harvest we will be having both Idaho and Oregon potatoes.” 

Onion harvesting for 2023 started in late August and was expected to run until October. The onions were sizing well in August, and Oates said in mid-September, “Quality and size are both good now, but the onions are still growing for another week or two before harvest starts.” 

The operation’s longstanding onion program includes yellow, red, white and sweet onions from August through May. Yellows are packed and available as super colossal, colossal, jumbo, medium and prepack. Reds are offered as jumbos and mediums; and whites are available as jumbo, mediums and prepack. Sweets are packed as jumbos.

Pack options include 50-pound mesh, 25-pound mesh, 10-pound mesh, 5-10s, 16-3s, 24-2s and 40-pound cartons. Stickers are also available. All products are GAP and Primus certified, and the operations are also members of Certified Onion Inc.

Oates said, “We are slowly converting our shed to robotic machinery for the near future.” 

With the new season just starting, Oates looked at the 2022-23 year and said the year ended on a positive note.

“We had a great finish, packing into late May,” she said. “We are thankful for a strong season, and we loaded cars until May — something we have never done before. We had zero issue at delivery points.”

Transportation, she said, “is getting a lot better,” but looking at labor she commented, “That is an ongoing issue, and now it is worse for our farm because we are on strict heat and overtime laws in Oregon. We managed to work crews early and evening shifts when the heat impact is low.”

The cost to farming “has increased intensively over the past five years and the rules have changed,” Oates added.

The capability to coordinate logistics and affiliations with other operations also allow Riverfront Produce to provide year-round supplies to its customers.

NJ Gomeza Farms was started in 2005 by Ken Bittick, Nick Gomeza and Berenise Gomeza, and Oates said the farm has come to epitomize “the strength of family-owned and operated agriculture.” She went on to say that at the Nyssa, OR, farm, “We’ve crafted a reputation for excellence, driven by our dedication to cultivating, harvesting, and delivering the finest produce to tables across the nation.”

Third-generation Nico Gomeza, son of Nick and Berenise and grandson of Bittick, has been working side-by-side with his family since he was six years old. He is now the tractor operator and manages farming spuds and onions, working to uphold the family tradition of quality and service.

Bittick commented, “The only thing we have to sell is quality,” and Nick Gomeza followed by saying the company provides “superior quality spuds and onions.” Vice President of Sales Paul Reeping added that to maintain such quality and service, operations such as NJ Gomeza Farms and Riverfront Produce are imperative. He said, “Farming will be more valuable than ever before.”

The packing operation was launched in 2011, and Oates said this vertically integrated “journey began with a vision to provide fresh, locally-sourced produce, and today Riverfront Produce stands as a symbol of quality and sustainability. It is an embodiment of our commitment to excellence and values, stemming from the success of NJ Gomeza Farms — and we are proud contributors to the region’s rich farming heritage.”

With the Gomeza name on the farm, Oates said the Riverfront Produce company name also “has a meaningful origin. It reflects our connection to the land and its riverside soil. Many of our crops flourish in these riverfront areas, and this name encapsulates our dedication to nurturing the land and bringing forth its bounty.”

She continued, “At Riverfront Produce Co., quality is not just a standard; it’s a promise we uphold. Every facet of our process, from planting the very first seed to delivering our products, is managed to ensure freshness and flavor. Our commitment to quality control sets us apart.”

Interaction with others is also key to family-owned and operated NJ Gomeza Farms and Riverfront Produce. “We believe in the strength of partnerships,” Oates said. “Collaborating with our community, dedicated employees and valued customers, we collectively sow the seeds of success. This approach enables us to continually bring the richness of Idaho-E. Oregon’s harvest to homes across the nation.”

“Every day I thank God that I grew up on the farm,” Nico Gomeza said.

Kathleen Thomas Gaspar

About Kathleen Thomas Gaspar  |  email

Kathleen is a Colorado native and has been writing about produce for more than three decades and has been a professional journalist for more than four decades. Over the years she’s covered a cornucopia of crops grown both in the United States and abroad, and she’s visited dozens of states – traveling by car from her home base in Colorado to the Northwest and Southeast, as far as Vancouver, BC, and Homestead, FL. Now semi-retired, Kathleen continues to write about produce and is also penning an ongoing series of fiction novels. She’s a wife, mother of two grown sons and grandmother of six, and she and her fly fisherman husband Abe reside in the Banana Belt town of Cañon City.

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