Weld County carrots and onions fare well in 2015 weather | MyWindsorNow.com

Weld County carrots and onions fare well in 2015 weather

Bridgett Weaver
bweaver@greeleytribune.com

Producers in Weld County have hailstorms on their minds when they go to bed at night in the summer months.

As with most other farming, production of carrots and onions relies heavily on cooperative weather, and this year they got it. Hailstorms, the nightmares of any producer, didn't fall this year, and as a result, harvest season yields look good.

"Usually you get a really bad (hail storm) that you hold you breath on in July or August, but that didn't happen this year," said Jordan Hungenberg, with Hungenberg Produce. "We were really fortunate to not have any storms as a whole. We had a lot of rain in April, May, June and then we hardly had any moisture at all."

He said the carrot crop this year is doing well. The Hungenbergs planted 1,100 acres of carrots this year. In fact, Hungenberg said it's been one of the better growing seasons his father, Paul, has ever seen. Paul has farmed for 40 years.

"We have a really nice crop this year," he said. "It was a tough spring with all the rain, but all in all, carrots have been high quality and good yields."

The price per 50-pound bag of carrots is remaining pretty standard at $9-$10/bag, he said.

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Mike Hungenberg, president at Hungenberg Produce, said it was a great year to be in the carrot business with bigger yields than most years. He said they harvest about 30 tons of carrots per acre— that's about 360,000 carrots per acre.

"We had 300 acres come up by themselves because it was so wet," he said.

This was a welcome problem, as they lost several acres of produce last year due to inclement weather.

Onions are much of the same story. After a rough 2014 season, producers are happy with the onion outlook.

Dave Petrocco, of Petrocco Farms, said the dry, warm weather has played into good yields this year. Petrocco farms about 500 acres of onions from southern Weld to northern Weld and everywhere in between.

He said they're harvesting an average of 1,000 55-pound bags of onions per acre.

Onions tend to be a gamble for producers, Petrocco said.

"I think that onion is a very high-risk crop, primarily because of the weather," he said. "It's a very expensive crop to grow. Should you get a very wet harvest, it could ruin the onion, and then during the growing season hard rains mixed with hail could ruin the crop."

But this year looks good. Petrocco has a positive outlook on market pricing this year, too.

"I think that the price is supposedly going to be better than it was in 2014," he said.

So far his prediction is right.

According to a July USDA market report, which is the most recent available report, onions are at $31.90/hundredweight. Last year at the same time the price was $23.50/hundredweight.

Ryan Fagerberg, of Fagerberg Farms and Produce, said his onion harvest will be later than normal, but yields are good.

"We had kind of a late start to the year because May was so cool and wet," Fagerberg said. "We planted our onions probably the latest we've ever planted. Once we did start moving along in the summer, we didn't have a really hot summer or the severe weather. It enabled us to have pretty decent yields."

He explained that trying to predict the price per 50-pound bag is hard because the market is fluid.

"The market, it's really volatile in the beginning of our harvest because there's so many onions coming to the market," he said.

California and New Mexico are just wrapping up their shipping season when Colorado farmers start to enter the market, so at first the price is sometimes driven down by excess supply.

"The price started out strong (this summer), because the Northwest area of the country hadn't started yet," he said. "Once they came on with their onions it kind of came back down to average prices."

Fagerberg Produce has about 1,500 acres of onions, but they only farm about 500 — the rest is contracted to other area producers.

Harvest isn't done yet — for onions or for carrots.

Hungenberg estimated they'll be harvesting until December.

Fagerberg said they will work until early October and Petrocco said they've got about 45 percent more of their harvest to go.

"We've had really, really good weather, probably the best in recent years," Fagerberg said.

He said they've only lost about a half a day of harvest time so far this year. There are still a few possible threats.

"Once you get toward the end of harvest you're always looking out for a freeze because that can affect your onions a lot," he said.

All of the local producers agree that a few more months of sunshine will get the produce out of the fields and into the market.

"We're in pretty good shape," Fagerberg said. "It doesn't seem like the forecast is for a lot of rain."

Market prices

July 2014 June 2015 July 2015

Carrots $25.10/cwt* $30.60/cwt $29.90/cwt

Onions $23.50/cwt $30.20/cwt $31.90/cwt

*Onions and carrots are sold by hundredweight, represented with “cwt.”

Source: July NASS Report.

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