Onion crop looking good for 2014
There's some big onions growing in the muck of Genesee and Orleans counties.
A photographer lining up his focus on a particularly bulbous specimen observes, "I don't remember seeing any onions this big last year."
"I haven't seen onions this big in 15 years," responds Paul Mortellaro, co-owner of Mortellaro Brothers in Elba.
On the one hand, the heavy rains of spring created near optimal growing conditions, especially for the onions that were started as transplants. On the other, heavy rain caused some flooding and damaged portions of some fields.
"You're not going to get 100 percent of your crop on 100 percent of your land, but I haven't seen a crop like this in 10 years," Mortellaro said.
Over the next few weeks, local onion farmers will be reaping that harvest. Already, several hundred acres of onions have been crated and bagged.
Much of the success so far of the onion crop is really the near ideal growing conditions of the middle of summer, where enough rain fell to feed the onions, but cool weather and enough dry days allowed perfect growing conditions.
The muckland farmers still have potential weather problems to worry about before the growing and harvest season is over. Mortellaro recalled one year when a severe hail storm came through and heavily damaged the crops of a couple of farms unlucky enough to have their fields right in the line of the main part of the storm.
But if conditions remain good, 2014 will go down as an excellent year for local onions.
A Mortellaro field. Once onions are ready for harvest, a machine pulls them from the ground and sets them back on the soil so the onions can dry before being harvested.
A big onion in a Torrey Farms field.
Mortellaro onions ready for harvest. As part of processing, the dry outer skins are removed, so they'll have a nice shine on store shelves.
Dried onions in a Torrey field being harvested.
Workers at Torrey Farms crate harvested onions. At the Torrey plant, workers arrange three rows of 20 crates each, with enough space between to drive a truck through. Trucks come in only minutes apart, giving workers very little time between loads to get the trucks empty. Mortellaro said it's a difficult job, hot and dusty and constant motion.
Crates full of onions at Mortellaro's processing facility.
Not onions. Beets. MY-T Acres land at Transit and Chapell roads, Byron.