Torrey Farms increases onion acreage
“We have fertile and diverse soils, we have well drained and silt loam soils, which are great for our vine crops like cucumbers, cabbage and squashes, and rich muckland soils where we grow our onions and potatoes,” said Shannon Kyle, a member of the 12th generation ownership, who handles sales and marketing for the company. “Also, there’s plenty of access to fresh water. Most obviously, proximity to market and the great people.”
The company services retailers, wholesalers and foodservice distributors up and down the East Coast, going west into states like Ohio, Illinois and Missouri. So far, 2022 is off to a strong start for Torrey Farms, specifically for onions and potatoes.
“Demand on both was good all winter and into the spring when we finished up with old crop,” Kyle said. “We were also shipping storage cabbage from last fall through March, but that market was flat.”
There has been an increase in the onion crop acreage this year as well, due primarily to the high yield and quality of the transplants for the season. But most crops are looking solid.
“Current stands are looking very good. I would say it was a slow start with a very cool April and first half of May, but we were not too wet, so we were able to get started on time,” Kyle said. “The weather has cooperated recently and some high heat we had over the Memorial Day Weekend has really made things pop. Our first cucumbers are up and the cabbage that we started planting in late April is changing fast.
We should finish transplanting our onion crop this week or the first of next and then we will shift into scouting and monitoring the crops to bring in the best quality possible.” Despite the challenges that the entire industry is facing, Torrey Farms is relying on its decades of experience to get by.
“We have really focused in on where we can save costs without affecting quality and yield,” Kyle said. “Choosing the best seed varieties from the start for our region in order to resist as many pests and diseases as possible from the start is a key, as it eliminates the need for many sprays and labor-intensive weeding.”
Since the business and the hand harvest of vegetables is tremendously labor intensive, Torrey Farms has upgraded some of its transplanting equipment to be more efficient and require less labor to operate.
“Over the past few years, we have invested in newer harvest aids that has streamlined the hand harvest of some of our crops like cucumbers and squash,” Kyle said. “This has helped with quality as well, as the harvest aids provide more protection for the crops and easier handling during harvest.”
Thanks to strong quality control and management at the field level, the company has transitioned to field packing a significant portion of its fresh market cabbage when the weather permits, and this has helped it reduce the cost to pack and ship.
“We always have to look at things like this to keep moving forward and try to off-set as many of the increased costs that we cannot control like fuel, fertilizer, packaging, labor rates, transportation rates, etc.,” Kyle said. “But as most growers across the country are proclaiming this year, the base prices on many items will frankly need to go up or it simply will not be affordable to grow many of these diverse fresh vegetables here in New York.”