|Hats Off to Onionman Wallace||December 2012|
Wallace and Bruce
Jeanie and I often laugh at the remarkable similarities between the last two generations of Dixondale farmers. Wallace Martin (Jeanie's dad) and I are both civil engineers by education, and farmers by the grace of God. We both came into the business after leaving the Army, and in both cases, the business was handed down from father-in-law to son-in-law.
Wallace's long career has included many of the events that shaped Dixondale Farms into the largest onion plant grower in the world. So it's only fitting that we kick off our Centennial year by saluting our veteran Onionman.
A Beautiful Beginning
Soon after Wallace got out of the Army, he married Mary Louise McClendon, whose father owned Dixondale Farms. Instead of taking a job at Philips Petroleum, Wallace and his young bride opted for the farming life. When I asked him whether he had ever had second thoughts about that decision, Wallace replied, "Yes...and I still do. Farming's a win or lose situation."
Wallace in a stylish sombrero
As an engineer in the farming business, he
learned how to grow cabbage, onions, and cantaloupes from the ground up. His earliest memories of the farm are of harvesting onions, using a notepad as an office while he recorded how many plants so-and-so pulled or how this or that truck loaded, and so on. As he puts it, "There's no teaching farming. It's a matter of get out there and learn how to do a particular crop."
Adapting to the Challenges
While his engineering background was helpful with things like laying out ditches and leveling the ground, Wallace faced some serious challenges in his career as the Onionman. "In those days, a lot depended on having new land so you could get by without pink root [a soil-borne fungal disease]. We went through about 10 or 12 farms because of pink root," he explains. Because those farms were scattered far and wide, Wallace had to do a lot of driving to manage them. "It wasn't uncommon for me to drive 200 miles every day. It was hard to stay in communication before cell phones."
And then there was the devastating hailstorm of 1965. "You could smell the rotting onions 10 miles away," Wallace recalls. "Then the next year, we got hit with a hard freeze. You can take one bad year, but two bad years in a row is pretty tough."
Wallace has also had to deal with misfortune on the part of his customers. In 1985, for example, a horrible freeze hit Vidalia, Georgia, killing their entire onion crop. "We were one of the few growers that had any Granex onion plants [the preferred variety for Vidalia] left. Instead of selling them to the highest bidder -- and I could have gotten a pretty penny, believe me -- I distributed what I had to the growers who had been loyal customers through the years."
Adaptability is one of many qualities you learn as a farmer, and Wallace has been forced to adapt more than most. At one point, he actually had to teach school because they couldn't find anybody else. As Wallace recalls, the local superintendent of schools simply showed up at the farm one day and said, "Get your butt in the car. You're going to teach math and physics." Wallace had to rearrange his schedule so he could teach in the morning while still running the farm in the evening.
The onion business itself never ceases to change. One of the biggest changes Wallace recalls was the open-pollinated seed-to-hybrid switchover. "Back in the early 1950's, everything became hybrid, which brought a tremendous increase in yields," he explains. "I remember a field of cabbage that would normally yield about 5 tons to the acre that started yielding 20 tons an acre when the hybrids came in."
The arrival of the game-changing Granex onion also forced some changes in the industry. "When the Granex was introduced, its particular qualities made it possible for farmers who had never grown onions before to start," reports Wallace. "That meant everything was harvested at the same time, no matter where they were grown. There was too much competition, so we just focused on growing the onion plants, and not the bulb onions."
Things just took off from there, especially after the mail order business cranked up in the 1990's. "I wanted to do that back in the early days," says Wallace. "The demand was there, but the distribution method was not. It wasn't until UPS came down here that the mail order business was practical."
The Next Hundred Years
At 88, Wallace is still active in the business, and remains my hero. I can only hope I'm half as sharp as he is when I'm his age. Hats off to you, Wallace, for all you've done. We're looking forward to you helping us take Dixondale Farms well into our second century. We literally couldn't have made it without you!
Happy Centennial, everyone!
Bruce "Onionman" Frasier
After Planting Growing Aids
This month, we feature two of our fine fertilizers for use after planting, both of which are ideal for maximizing the success and size of your crop.
Ammonium Sulfate Fertilizer 21-0-0: Once your onion plants have gotten established, you'll need to feed them with a good source of nitrogen to maximize growth and bulbing potential. This product is exactly what onions need to generate more foliage and, therefore, more rings and larger bulbs. Our Ammonium Sulfate is actually good stuff for all vegetables, so don't hesitate to buy in bulk. We'll sweeten the pot with some savings: for a limited time, if you buy any combination of bagged fertilizer, you can save $3.00 per bag.
We've prepared a handy Facebook video that explains how to apply our Ammonium Sulfate fertilizer. Take a look!
OmegaGrow: This exclusive, all-organic foliar feed has everything your onions need to grow big and strong. Active ingredients include ammoniacal nitrogen, water soluble nitrogen, phosphate, and soluble potash. OmegaGrow provides a rich source of nutrients that slowly break down and release nitrogen into the soil, continually supporting root growth, top development, and yield, but never harming the environment.
From Our Friends
Richard of Belleville, KS sent us this wonderful photo with this explanation: "Here's a picture of my daughter Faith with her Candy onions. She won Grand Champion at our county fair!"
Excellent job, Faith! Thanks for your faith in Dixondale onions!
Got some onion-related photos to share? Click here for submission tips. You just might see your photo in a future newsletter!
|Around The Farm
The Year in Review
We've had a banner year here at Dixondale Farms, and thought we'd take look back on it in this month's column. Oh, and by the way: we're in the news again, heralded as the world's largest grower of onion plants. Read all about it
We received the 2012 Green Thumb Award for our introduction of the Texas Early White short-day onion. The Green Thumb Awards are sponsored by the Direct Gardening Association (DGA).
Bruce, whom the sponsoring Texas International Produce Association describes as "a man known for his humor and a dauntless approach to business," was awarded the Texas Vegetable Association Award of Merit at the annual Texas Produce Convention on August 17. Internal Improvements
We installed a new strapping system on our 30-bunch cases, making the packaging process faster and more efficient. When ordering multiple cases, two are strapped together. With this new equipment, package closing is automated. The process is now speedier, there are fewer packages, multiple shipments don't get separated in transit as easily, and no staples means the boxes don't scratch anything!
We also built a new cooler/packing shed, so we can now pack entire truckloads of onions on the spot and store harvested products without moving them. This is another way in which we're becoming more efficient with our operations, as well as friendlier to the environment. New for '13
We've introduced some excellent new products for 2013. Our new onion variety is the Texas Legend, for which we have high hopes, and then there are the two organic growing aids: OxiDate, which prevents disease, and Azaguard, an organic insecticide.
Thanks for a great year, folks. We can't wait to see what our Centennial year holds for us!
|Cooking With Onions|
Party Quesadillas with Jalapeno Jack and Fresh Chard
- 1-1/2 cups finely chopped red onion
- Vegetable or olive oil
- 1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped chard leaves, packed
- 4 flour tortillas (8-inch)
- 1/2 pound jalapeno jack cheese, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Sauté onion in large oiled skillet for about 5 minutes or until tender-crisp. Add chard and sauté 1 minute longer. Steam tortillas in steamer or in microwave oven for about 1 minute or just until flexible. Top one half of each tortilla with one quarter of the cheese. Spoon one quarter of the onion-chard mixture on top of cheese. Fold each quesadilla over like a turnover and pat to stay folded.
Wipe out skillet, then heat over medium-high heat with a little oil in bottom. Add quesadillas and cook, turning once, until light golden and cheese melts. Cut each quesadilla into 3 or 4 triangles. Arrange on plate, garnish with red pepper, and place in 250 degree oven until ready to serve. Makes 12 to 16 servings.
Courtesy of the National Onion Association. If you have a recipe you'd like us to print, email it to us at email@example.com.
|Q & A: Best Varieties|
Q. Which day-length variety should I order for my area -- short-day, intermediate-day, or long-day?
A. Onion maturity and bulbing depend on a number of factors, including day-length, light intensity, and temperature. For example, you get your best onion growth in a temperature range from 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit; bulb development slows way down below 50 degrees or above 87 degrees. As a general rule, long-day onions do best north of the 37th parallel, in the northern tier states, while intermediate-day onions do best in the middle of the country from the 35th to 37th parallels. Short-day varieties produce optimum growth south of the 35th parallel.
Visit our day-length map to find the varieties best suited to your growing region.
|Fun Onion Facts|
We all know that onions can make you cry if you chop them long enough, due to the sulfur compounds they release as they're cut. This has led to a number of unusual practices for avoiding eye irritation, from cutting the onions underwater to holding a piece of bread in your mouth as you cut.
If nothing else works for you, try the candle flame method. Place a burning candle next to the cutting board in a well-ventilated area, and cut your onions with a very sharp knife. The theory is that the flame will draw in the fumes from the onions and burn them off before they reach your eyes. Martha Stewart recommends this method. If you try it, let us know how it works for you!
All Your Questions Answered
We have answers to your frequently asked questions! Just click the link for information on when to order your onions, as well as for tips on planting, caring, feeding, harvesting, and storing them.
My, how we've grown!
As we begin to reflect on 100 years of onion growing this January 2013, we're reminded of the many blessings that have helped us expand and prosper. Among them are you, our loyal customers, who have stuck with us through robust seasons and challenging times alike. We'll share these fun and
heartwarming stories and photos with one another during our yearlong celebration.
So send us your pictures, growing successes, challenging crop stories, and other memories so we can stroll through the years together!
Join Us On Facebook!
Join the community of friends and growers on our Facebook page! You can connect with us and fellow growers to share stories, photos, recipes, and even weather information and other tips. And be sure to check out our short videos, on topics ranging from how onion plants are harvested to how onions deal with cold weather.
This month, we're on a mission to get over 1,913 "Likes" on our Facebook page in honor of the year Dixondale Farms was founded! Just "Like" our Facebook page before the end of December for a chance to win a spiffy Dixondale Farms T-shirt. If you just can't wait, you can buy one here!