Nature’s Ninja: How Onions Are Nature’s Most Powerful Vegetable

The age old saying goes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We can’t speak for the apple, but we certainly can put in a good word for the onion. 

An onion a day is the perfect way to add a flavorful and nutritious boost to the foods you eat every day. At Gills Onions, we salute the noble onion as nature’s ninja — a hardy, adaptable, and sustainable product that tastes great, too!

What Onions and Ninjas Have in Common

When the National Onion Association introduced the Nature’s Ninja mascot, it was easy to see why ancient martial arts and one of the world’s most ancient foods go together.

Onions are masters of disguise, built to survive even the harshest of elements. From the outside, an onion can seem unassuming, but it packs a powerful punch ready to defeat disease. The hard outer skin and pungent juices of the onion push back bacteria and bugs. Like a ninja, onions are one of the stealthiest food choices. You can easily “sneak” onions into a variety of meals and in a variety of forms. Sliced, diced, pickled, or pureed, onions are always delicious. 

And don’t forget about onions’ staying power. They are one of the most sustainable food choices, used for everything from electric power to animal feed to cleaning your BBQ grill. But one of the best things about the onion — its most powerful skill — is its ability to promote good physical health. 

Onions Are Always a Healthy Choice

Onions are low in sodium, low in calories, and fat free. They contain high amounts of essential nutrients including: 

  • Vitamin C
  • Dietary fiber
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Iron

Their benefits range from acting as a salve to treating insect stings to being one of the key ingredients in cough syrups. Onions also contain powerful antioxidants that delay oxidative damage in human cells and tissues. These antioxidants also eliminate free radicals in your body and deactivate the harmful effects of chelate metal ions. 

Studies show that onions may reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancer, gastric ulcers, heart disease, cataracts, and osteoporosis. Results from a 2019 Chinese study showed that eating onions could reduce cases of colorectal cancer by 79% when individuals consume 35 pounds of onions (or other allium vegetables like garlic, leeks, and scallions) each year. That may sound like a lot, but currently, the average American consumes about 22 pounds of onions annually. So, there’s not much farther to go. Another study conducted in Puerto Rico found that consuming onions and garlic reduced the risk of breast cancer. 

The University of Wisconsin and University of Wisconsin-Madison are currently researching the use of onions as a blood thinner and platelet inhibitor. Researchers have found that pungent onions spur antiplatelet activities in the body, which could be used to fight conditions caused by platelet aggregation like cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attacks. 

The National Onion Association also reports that the organosulfur compounds responsible for the taste and smell of onions can reduce symptoms from diabetes and prevent inflammation from asthma. Including onion in your diet can even lower your cholesterol

In short, onions are always a healthy choice!

Working Together to Promote Onion Consumption

Onions are nature’s perfect vegetable. At Gills Onions and throughout the onion industry, we truly believe that statement. We’re excited to share more about how onions can elevate your health and your recipes. 

Look for the Nature’s Ninja mascot from the National Onion Association on social media, and spread the good news of good onions to your friends. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

Our Year-Round Supply

The Secret to Storing Onions 

At Gills Onions, we deliver the best and freshest onions to our customers year-round, but we only harvest onions from April to November. What do we do the rest of the year? The answer is storage onions. Storing onions is an art. It’s one that we’ve perfected over many years with our special onion-growing prescription. It starts with seed selection and ends with a delicious onion arriving in your kitchen. And if we’ve done our job correctly, you’ll never be able to tell which onions are storage onions and which are coming to you in-season. 

Our Unique Approach

Storing onions isn’t unique to our operation. Onions are only harvested certain months of the year, but society uses onions all year long. The only way to keep supplying the onions is to store them. You’ve probably been using storage onions your whole life and simply never realized it. What does make Gills Onions unique is how we approach the storing process. Storage onions have to stay fresh for around six months in cold storage. The storage season starts in September or October each year and extends all the way until April. That’s why seed selection and onion variety are so crucial. 

Gills Onions currently grows around a dozen varieties of onions. These varieties are selected for their flavor and longevity. Then, the seeds are matched with growing environments that will produce the best results from hot, more desert-like environments to fields in cooler regions like Bakersfield, King City, and the Salinas Valley. During the growing process, adjustments must be made for onions that will be spending time in storage. We pull back on the use of fertilizers and nitrogen to allow calcium in the onions to build a strong cell wall that will withstand natural cellular breakdowns that occur over time. At harvest time, onions are dug up and cured in the sun for 7 to 10 days. Curing is an essential part of the storage process. Onions that aren’t cured properly will decay quickly in storage. Bulk onion operations place unpeeled onions loose or in bags into a cold storage warehouse. Often, heat is used to dry out the onions and prevent decay, but this can mean sacrificing flavor. 

As a fresh cut processor, our onions are harvested, sorted and placed into bins before storing. The onions are also pre-cooled to gradually bring them down to storage temperatures. This gradual cooling keeps the onions from sweating and building up moisture that causes mold. In storage, the onions are kept at 34 degrees Fahrenheit and 75% humidity for optimum freshness. During the storage season, the onions are routinely checked for quality. Onions with internal or external decay, sun damage, or mechanical damage from the peeling process are removed from storage. The onions’ color can also be an indicator of freshness. Yellow or green centers mean an onion is reaching its point of longevity for storage.

Making a Great Storage Onion 

Some varieties of onions naturally stay fresh longer than others, and even the most subtle physical attributes, like shape, can affect the way an onion withstands the storing process. Storage onions should have single centers instead of multiple centers. Those with double or triple centers break down faster, and won’t stay fresh for long. We constantly evaluate and re-evaluate how each variety of onion is performing in storage. Like any crop, onion genetics change over time. If a variety we have loved is now producing onions with undesirable attributes – like multiple centers – we stop using it and replace it with a better-performing variety. Quality always comes first. 

Year-Round Quantity with Gills Onions Quality 

At Gills Onions, we are dedicated to providing the best onions at the best price. We take our responsibility to our environment, our customers, and of course, our onions, seriously. With our strict storage onions growing program, we can deliver the best tasting and freshest product year-round. Our customers get consistent quality, a consistent price, and consistent availability all 365 days of the year. 

But don’t take our word for it. Our onions speak for themselves. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

Join the Double Your Impact Challenge

In the month of May, Gills Onions will match all donations up to $12,500 for every dollar donated to Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture (SEEAG) as part of SEEAG’s third annual Double Your Impact Challenge.

“The generosity of our friends at Gill’s Onions means SEEAG will receive as much as $25,000 to support our Farm Lab program,” says Mary Maranville, SEEAG’s founder and CEO.  “Farm Lab is a combination of classroom learning and farm field trips where students learn all about the origins of their food, particularly locally-grown food. The money raised will enable us to reach more students across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.”

A Mission to Teach and Share

Gills Onions is a long-time supporter of SEEAG’s agricultural education programming that has reached over 60,000 elementary school students since its founding in 2008. All SEEAG programs are 100 percent cost-free to schools and students.

“Teaching students about how food is grown and the benefits of eating locally-produced fruits and vegetables is one way to improve the health of our kids,” says Steve Gill, Gill’s Onions president and SEEAG board member. “Once kids learn about the farming and harvesting process and the benefits of fresh produce, they get excited about eating a more healthy diet.”

How You Can Help

All “Gill’s Onions Double Your Impact Challenge” matching donations go toward student learning:

Double Giving Levels:

  • $25 donation doubles to $50 – Print summer camp booklets for 100 students
  • $50 donation doubles to $100 – Pack farm-fresh resource bags for 200 students
  • $100 donation doubles to $200 – Send 200 students home with vegetable seedlings
  • $250 donation doubles to $500 – Fill up the SEEAG van for two weeks of summer camp travel
  • $500 donation doubles to $1,000 – Provide fresh snacks and materials for 800 students
  • $1,000 donation doubles to $2,000 – Covers the cost of six buses to bring students to Farm Lab

 For more information or to donate, visit www.seeag.org/doubleyourimpact.

Ready to try onions grown “The Gills Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

2021 PMA Foodservice

It’s 2021, and PMA Foodservice is back! Our team at Gills Onions is so excited to be attending our first major industry event for foodservice since the COVID-19 pandemic. Our industry has seen unprecedented changes and faced many unforeseen challenges over the past year, but we are ready to join with our partners … because foodservice is back in business. 

There’s no better way to celebrate how far we’ve come than PMA Foodservice. 

What You Need to Know About PMA Foodservice

PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo will be taking place July 21–22, 2021, in Monterey, California. This year, PMA is celebrating the resilience of the industry and reconnecting buyers and sellers at its 40th anniversary event. 

At PMA Foodservice, you’ll find attendees from every corner of our industry, including operators, distributors, and retail foodservice buyers; grower-shippers and processors (like Gills Onions); and even business solutions providers. It gives everyone a chance to connect, learn about innovations, and of course, do business. 

At Gills Onions, we are so excited to be back at PMA Foodservice doing what we do best: sharing the good news of fresh fruits and vegetables. We love the chance to show why we are the best at what we do and how we lead in sustainability, food safety, value-add, and flavor. We believe in doing business the old-fashioned way — with a handshake and a face-to-face conversation, building relationships that last. 

We’re Proud to Stand With Our Partners

We’re proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners in foodservice as we enter the post-pandemic world. It’s no secret that 2020 was difficult, and Gills Onions wasn’t immune. Restaurants closed and reopened and closed again. New mandates and restrictions forced us to get creative and adapt how we do business. Businesses across our industry had to make difficult decisions to reduce staff, and at times, it seemed like things would never return to “normal.” 

Now, in 2021, some things are starting to look a bit more familiar. But, with a national labor shortage, reducing costs and labor in the kitchen is more important than ever. At Gills Onions, we are proud to offer a value-added product that saves kitchens time and money on labor and transportation costs. And, onions are one of the most commonly used products across foodservice. (It makes sense. They’re delicious and versatile.) 

We also took the time in 2020 to prepare our business for the next 40 years of service. We upgraded our technology to incorporate state of the art equipment that allows us to deliver products more quickly and more safely than ever before. 

PMA Foodservice is the perfect time to stand together and share an optimistic vision of the future. We all survived, and now it is time to thrive. 

Come Visit Us at PMA Foodservice

If you’ll be joining us at PMA Foodservice, stop by and say hello! Have a chat with our founder, Steve Gill, at booth 415. 

If you won’t be attending PMA Foodservice in person, you can still be part of the experience. Our team at Gills Onions will be online and ready to answer all your questions virtually during the conference. 

We can’t wait to see you!

Ready to try onions the Gills Way? For more information, contact our sales department.

What Makes Onions So Flavorful?

Onions. They are the king of the United Federation of Flavor — the mascot that says to cooks and eaters everywhere, “Welcome to flavor city.” They also pack a potent punch if they aren’t processed correctly (and even when they are). 

What gives these vital veggies their signature tastes and smells? And how can you get the best of their flavor? Let’s dive in.

The Secret to Flavor? Science.

Think about an onion. What does it taste like? What does it smell like? Here’s the thing: Whatever you answered, you’re probably right. 

Onions come in hundreds of varieties. They can be sweet or sour, soft or crisp, tangy or dripping with umami. The intensity of an onion’s smell and flavor also depends on its freshness. If you’ve ever picked an onion fresh out of the soil, you may have been surprised to find it didn’t have a smell. So, what is going on? 

Onions have a unique chemistry with molecules that contain a whole lot of sulphuric compounds. Sulphur is responsible for those pesky tears that pop up anytime you chop an onion, but it is also responsible for flavor and odor. The scientific name for this group of compounds is thiosulfinates. 

But here’s the really interesting thing. A fresh, raw onion doesn’t have these molecules. They form after an onion is damaged, like when you chop, slice, or dice. Cutting an onion breaks up cell structure and releases the molecules. Enzymes come into contact with the molecules and create the thiosulfinates and their characteristically strong smell, all in 30 seconds or less.

How intense the smell and flavor of your onion is depends on its variety, or cultivar, and how much sulfur was in the soil. Spring onions harvested in the early spring tend to be more mild, while storage onions harvested in the late summer and early fall tend to be more pungent.

How Does Cooking Affect Onion Flavor?

How you prepare onions will affect the flavor. Since slicing and dicing releases the odor and flavor, the more finely you chop an onion, the more flavorful it will be. On the other hand, a process like boiling an onion will break down the enzymes that spur the chemical reactions creating a less pungent flavor. 

Different levels of heat can control levels of flavor. Heat spurs a range of chemical reactions that all interact with the fundamental make-up of the onion. The longer the cooking time, the more mild and savory an onion becomes. 

Caramelizing or sauteing onions on low or moderate heat causes a reaction between the sugars and the proteins. The onions turn brown, the sugars come free, and the sulphuric compounds react over and over until the pungent flavor is gone and the sweet sugar flavor remains. 

The Gills Onions Promise

At Gills Onions, we are dedicated to creating onions that stay fresh longer and have the best flavor you can find. From the seeds we grow to the soil we grow them in to the way we slice and dice the onions, to the packaging we use to keep them safe until they arrive in your kitchen, flavor is always top of mind. 

We hope you enjoy them.

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

Get Ready to Fall in Love with Mirepoix

Our Gills Onions retail products are designed to save you time and work in the kitchen. That’s why we are so excited to announce a new addition to our product line: Mirepoix. 

Mirepoix is an aromatic mix of onions, carrots, and celery. Any great chef knows that Mirepoix is the base for hundreds of delicious recipes, and now home chefs like you can reap the benefits, too, without all the prep work. 

How Do I Use Mirepoix?

Mirepoix is one of the most versatile and essential vegetable blends. It’s a third onion, a third celery, and a third carrot. It can be added to or serve as a base for sauces, soups, and marinades. It makes a killer roux. It can accompany braised meats. You can toss it in a slow cooker or pressure cooker for added flavor to just about anything you’re whipping up. Oh, and it’s really tasty in casseroles.

So, why don’t more people use Mirepoix in their everyday cooking? Because it is a pain to prepare. That barrier goes away with our pre-diced, pre-mixed Mirepoix blend. 

Here are a few fun recipes that call for Mirepoix to get your creative juices flowing: 

Less Chopping, More Enjoying

During the pandemic, so many people found their passion for cooking delicious meals at home. The only thing that makes fresh, home cooked food even better is when your vegetables are prepped and ready to go. Spend less time chopping, dicing, and slicing and more time enjoying food with the ones you love. 

Oh, and don’t forget that eliminating the need to chop up all those vegetables also eliminates the chance of knife injuries in your kitchen. Definitely an added bonus.

Find Gills Onions Products in Your Local Store

While you’re grabbing some delicious Mirepoix off the shelf, check out our other fabulous retail products (all now with new resealable film!): 

  • Diced Yellow Onions – Use to spice up any recipe that calls for chopped or diced onions. 
  • Diced Red Onions – Add something extra to soups, chilis, and sauces, or use as a colorful condiment. 
  • Diced Celery and Onions – The perfect blend for potato salads, tuna salads, and holiday stuffings and casseroles. 
  • Diced Pickled Onions — A tasty, tangy addition to salads, burgers, sandwiches, and cooked dishes. 

So, get out there, and take our new Mirepoix (and maybe a few more tasty pre-prepped products from above) for a test drive. We can’t wait to hear what you think!

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

Our Quest Toward Zero Waste

When you spend your days peeling and processing onions, you know that waste is inevitable. But, at Gills Onions, we also know that sustainability is key to preserving our fields and the quality of our products for future generations. 

Since Gills Onions began in 1983, we’ve passionately explored new technologies and methods to help us maximize conservation and efficiency in every area of our business. 

Our mission is to be fully aware of the impact our business has on the environment and to hold ourselves accountable. We do this by continuously making and achieving measurable sustainability goals in each organizational and operational level of our business. 

Our Zero Waste Facility 

In 2009, Gills Onions made a goal to achieve zero waste company wide. We would work to maximize recycling, minimize waste, reduce consumption, and ensure that our products were made to be reused, repaired, or recycled back into nature or the marketplace. 

This was an ambitious goal. In 2007, our home state of California sent 39.6 million tons of waste to landfills, 16% of which was food matter. At our own facility, about 37% of the onions processed cannot be used by customers and are discarded as waste along with leftover onion peelings. 

In the past, we trucked this waste to the onion farms where it was worked back into the soil. But this practice wasn’t truly sustainable. It started proving problematic for soil conditions and cost $400,000 annually to transport the waste, not to mention the emissions caused by our trucking fleet.

We knew there had to be a better way to run our business — from the fields to the processing facility and even in our offices. 

We began by creating a comprehensive inventory of all the waste streams in our business. We then developed strategies to help us move toward diverting 100 percent of our waste into productive outlets. 

We track all of our resource usage from the types of fuel we use to electricity and water. We also keep a detailed inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and report it yearly to The Climate Registry. 

At our processing facility, a wastewater treatment plant process 180,000 gallons of production wastewater per day. Ultimately, 100% of this water will be purified and recycled back to our facility for reuse. We’ve also increased the fuel efficiency of our entire fleet of trucks, saving 90 thousand gallons of fuel annually.

And by converting 99% of our conventional irrigation methods to drip irrigation, Gills Onions has reduced water consumption by 40%. That means we reduce the risks of soil erosion and conserve enough water each year to meet the annual needs of 2,900 households in our home state of California.  

Through the implementation of wide-range recycling programs and the expansion of waste reduction initiatives, our company’s waste diversion reached 99.2% in 2018. 

Converting Waste to Onion Power 

A highlight of our zero waste efforts is Onion Power

Our plant can process up to a million pounds of raw onions each day, creating an average of 150 tons of onion waste.

By collaborating with innovators across the United States over several years, Gills Onions was able to develop the Advanced Energy Recovery System (AERS), which converts onion waste into ultra-clean, virtually emissions-free electricity. 

The AERS provides 100% of the base electrical load for our processing plant, the equivalent of enough power to supply 460 homes for an entire year. It also eliminates 14,500 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions each year. 

The Benefits of a Zero Waste Mindset

Working “green” positively impacts our employees, our customers, our industry, and our environment. It also benefits our bottom line. 

We’ve been able to reduce operational costs, increase efficiency, improve our resource management, and create greater energy independence as we pursue a zero waste facility. And we aren’t the only ones who benefit. 

Our customers see profit from a greener, less wasteful supply chain as well. They also enjoy increased transparency on how their onions are grown and processed and the impact those tasks have on the environment. 

As Gills Onions has pursued zero waste initiatives, we’ve been able to share our expertise and innovations with fellow industry players and government bodies. Our technology has helped the state of California produce substantial quantities of combined power and heat from renewable food processing waste products. Widespread use of “waste-to-energy” conversion technology is replacing significant amounts of electricity and natural gas use statewide. 

The real winner in our sustainability journey is — of course — our environment. We’ve reduced greenhouse gas emissions by no longer hauling waste off-site for composting. We’ve also improved air quality by reducing the use of conventional fuel supplies and replacing other polluting energy sources with clean alternatives. 

By demonstrating responsibility and leadership, we hope to encourage environmentally-friendly, waste-reducing initiatives in our nation and in our industry. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

Why Does Cutting Onions Make You Cry?

Who hasn’t been brought to tears by onions? We certainly have — but that’s because we love them so darn much. For many other people, it’s because they decided to cut one open. And, for just as many people, the reason why cutting into that sweet, sweet onion sets the waterworks flowing is a mystery. 

Let us solve it for you. 

It’s Not an Emotional Reaction — It’s a Chemical One

Let’s start by reviewing a little onion anatomy. At the end of the day (and at the beginning as well…and really through the entire day, actually) an onion is a bulb. It grows under the ground. You know what else hangs out under the ground? Little critters who love to nibble on bulbs, like voles, moles, and groundhogs, oh my!

So, onions have a defense mechanism to protect them from all those unwanted nibbles. Enter chemical reactions. 

When the skin of an onion breaks, whether from a nibble or your favorite kitchen knife, it begins to release a combination of enzymes and sulfenic acid. When these two compounds come together, they create an extremely irritating gas called propanethial S-oxide. When this gas is released, it evaporates quickly and finds its way to — you guessed it — your eyes. When it hits the water that covers the surface of your eyes, it turns into sulfuric acid.

Now, here’s the thing. Just like the onions have a defense mechanism to keep them safe, so do your eyes. When the nerves in your eyes detect the sulfuric acid, they know they need to flush it out. Cue the tears. 

So, What’s an Onion Lover to Do? 

There are a lot of different ways that people say you can help yourself out in the onions and tears department. How effective these strategies are depends a lot on your own genetics, on the onion you’re cutting, and the universe in general. 

  • Put a barrier between you and that nasty onions gas by slicing onions under clear plastic or glass. 
  • Cut onions under a vent or fan to help disperse the gases away from your eyes. 
  • Freeze the onion before cutting it. 
  • Cut the onion under the water. 
  • Wear goggles. 
  • Cook the onion, then slice it. Cooking deactivates the enzymes.
  • Rinse your eyes after cutting to help flush out the sulfuric acid. 
  • Use a cold compress or even cucumber on your eyes to reduce the irritation after cutting (another vegetable to the rescue!).
  • Try clearing your eyes with some eye drops. 

The only sure fire way to not cry when cutting onions is to not cut them in the first place. 

Let Us Cut Your Onions for You

If you’re still chopping onions, it’s a crying shame! Why not let Gills Onions do the hard work for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a chef whipping up your signature dish or a home cook experimenting with a new recipe. Our sliced and diced, ready-to-use, value-added products save time — and tears — while delivering the best onion flavor there is. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

We Love Our New Resealable Film (You Should, Too!)

Innovation is the name of the game at Gills Onions. We’re always looking for new and improved ways to grow our onions, serve our customers, and take care of our planet. That’s why we are so excited to announce our new resealable film for our retail line. 

Now, it may not sound that exciting. You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal about some film?” 

Well, first off all, it’s resealable film. You can’t forget about the resealable part. Second, it’s a very big deal. Here’s why you should be just as excited about the new resealable film on Gills Onions retail product as we are. 

It’s Eco-Friendly

Doing right by the environment and minimizing waste are two of the most important parts of what we do at Gills Onions. We want to leave a big, beautiful, healthy earth behind for future generations. Every element of our business — down to the packaging we use for our products — affects our planet. 

In order for our retail products to stay fresh, they need to breathe. Traditionally, we place a breathable film onto each cup of product with a heat seal. Then, we put a lid on top. When you bring your veggies home, you remove the seal, take out what you need, and put the lid back on. It’s super convenient and stores well. 

But, our new resealable film brings all those benefits plus it reduces the use of plastic by 20%. You don’t need a lid anymore. You can peel back the film to remove the veggies you need and then stick it right back in place, over and over again, without losing freshness. By maintaining the breathability of the resealable film, we are able to keep the longest shelf life in the industry — 18 days. 

Resealable Film Increases Food Safety

When you go to the store and buy your vegetables, you want to know that food you bring home is safe and protected from germs and contaminants. We put forth so much effort to keep our onions and vegetables clean and healthy before they arrive at the store, and we want our customers to be confident when they see the Gills Onions name.

When our resealable film is peeled back for the first time, the seal changes colors. This makes it simple to be sure that your product hasn’t been tampered with or damaged. If the seal is clear, your food is safe. 

It’s Convenient

The retail produce market is growing, especially because of the pandemic period during which so many people found their passion for cooking delicious meals at home. The only thing that makes fresh vegetables better is when they are prepped and ready to go. That means less time spent chopping and dicing and more time enjoying delicious food with the ones you love. 

You’ll find our new resealable film on all our retail products: 

  • Diced Yellow Onions – Use to spice up any recipe that calls for chopped or diced onions. 
  • Diced Red Onions – Add something extra to soups, chilis, and sauces, or use as a colorful condiment. 
  • Diced Celery and Onions – The perfect blend for potato salads, tuna salads, and holiday stuffings and casseroles. 
  • Diced Mirepoix – An aromatic mix of onions, carrots, and celery. Add to sauces, braised meats, and marinades. 
  • Diced Pickled Onions — A tasty, tangy addition to salads, burgers, sandwiches, and cooked dishes. 

So, get out there, and take our new resealable film for a test drive. We can’t wait to hear what you think!

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.

Regenerative Agriculture: Helping Farmers Fight Climate Change

For almost 40 years, Gills Onions has been passionate about two things: producing the best onions on the market and exploring agriculture practices and technologies that maximize sustainability and preserve our earth for future generations. 

Every great onion starts with dirt. Healthy soil makes healthy onions. That’s why we embrace conscious farming practices that reduce our impact on the environment, pioneering a culture of eco-friendly farming in the industry. Our seed-to-package process takes into account every phase of an onion’s journey from the field to your table. But there is always more to learn about and do for our earth!

Our mission is to change the way our industry approaches farming. What if instead of simply sustaining our planet, we could regenerate it? 

Connecting Soil Health and Climate Change

Regenerative agriculture is the latest advance in conscious farming. The concept is simple: All living things and many industrial practices release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, plants pull the carbon dioxide out of the air and use it to grow, releasing clean oxygen in the process. The levels of carbon dioxide in the air are higher than ever before, but under the right conditions, plants could pull that carbon dioxide out of the air and into the soil. This would reverse the effects of climate change and restore the soil’s natural organic carbon content. Regenerative agriculture creates healthier plants, soil, and air all at the same time.

It may sound too good to be true, but the process is absolutely natural. It’s what the earth does by itself every day, but regenerative agriculture asks humans to give our planet a hand. 

Traditional agriculture practices like tilling and plowing, using fertilizers and pesticides, and repeatedly growing the same crops in the same dirt year after year slowly degrade soil and release the soil’s carbon into the air. Around the world, fields have already lost a large percentage of their original carbon content. And, up to a third of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the food industry, with nearly 80% of that number coming from agriculture

As National Geographic explains, “Regenerative farming practices like no-till cultivation, cover crops, and crop rotation keep the carbon in the soil, where it builds over time. In turn, carbon-rich organic matter feeds healthy plants.” 

International groups like The Terraton Initiative are working to help farmers all over the world embrace regenerative farming. The Terraton Initiative’s goal is to capture one trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the air and restore it to the soil through regenerative farming. The idea is that by restoring lost carbon to all 3.6 billion acres of farmland used for growing crops on the planet, about a trillion tons of carbon would be pulled out of the atmosphere — reversing the effects of climate change. 

Regenerative agriculture starts with each individual farmer, and the benefits speak for themselves. Farmers who embrace regenerative methods see carbon levels rise in their soil, creating healthier crops with more nutrients. 

Your Power as a Consumer

Why don’t farmers everywhere immediately embrace regenerative agriculture? The average farmer makes a living based on volume — how much of a product they can produce — and not based on quality or how sustainable their farming is. 

Transitioning to regenerative farming practices has a cost and the risk that yields could drop in the beginning before farmers see results. 

That’s where you, the consumer, comes into play. While groups like The Terraton Initiative incentivize farmers with carbon credits, you can support regenerative farming with your business. By purchasing products produced by farms who employ regenerative agriculture methods, you hold the supply chain accountable and show your support for conscious farming.

How do you know if your food comes from an organization that is dedicated to regenerative farming? 

Start by knowing your local farmer. Find a farm focused on sustainability in your area and look for their products. Then, do your research. Being a responsible consumer means finding out who produces the products you use every day and how they do it.  

Celebrate Earth Month With Gills Onions

We don’t have to sit around and wait for new technology or groundbreaking scientific research to change our earth for the better. We only have to decide to make it happen — and you can start today! Here are a few simple ways you can support a healthy environment:

  • Employ regenerative farming practices in your own garden 
  • Join a local CSA or purchase fresh produce from area farmers at the farmer’s market
  • Become a soil advocate
  • Start a compost pile or bin for food waste
  • Get to know your local farmer, and ask how you can support their efforts
  • Recycle and reuse
  • Buy eco-friendly household products
  • Don’t idle your car
  • Collect rainwater, and use it to water your houseplants 
  • Calculate your personal carbon footprint
  • When possible, walk or ride your bike instead of driving
  • Start your own zero waste challenge
  • Plant a tree

Remember, every step, no matter how small, is one in the right direction — toward a healthier world for all of us.

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

The Root of Health: Why Roots Matter More Than You Think

You are what you eat, or so the saying goes. At Gills Onions, we like to take it a few steps farther. You are what you eat, and what you eat is what is in the soil, and what is in the soil are roots. 

We know what you’re thinking, “Are you really about to spend an entire article talking about roots?” You bet we are! Roots are one of the unsung heroes of health. Our health is connected to what we put in our bodies, and healthy food starts with healthy soil. The countless connections between soil and food are roots. 

So, let’s dig deeper into the wonderful world of roots hiding just beneath our feet.

Roots and Microbes Working Together

About 470 million years ago, soil microbes like fungi and plants formed what Chris Topp, an associate member at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center calls “an ancient alliance.” 

Plants were new to the scene, having just finished the migration to land from the water. The first thing the plants did was grow roots. Roots helped hold the plants in place and mined for the resources needed to keep each plant alive. Then, in biological terms, the plants teamed up with fungi to help get resources they couldn’t grab on their own. 

When a plant pulls carbon dioxide from the air, it converts it into sugars. The plant can then use the sugars to fuel growth in roots or leaves, or it can swap the sugars with microbes like fungi in exchange for some of its nitrogen or phosphorus. Other microbes taking part in the swap can include bacteria and even viruses. 

Thousands of tiny interconnected roots make the swap happen, reaching out and working together with microbes to find essential nutrients and water. Some of the microbes help exchange and assemble carbon — one of the most basic building blocks of soil. Others fix atmospheric nitrogen. Meanwhile, the roots excrete organic acids that control the soil pH and make delicious elements like phosphorus more readily available for the plant.

In short, roots rule the soil. They feed the plants and manage the microbes. 

What exactly does this crazy subterranean bartering system have to do with you? Everything. 

Healthy Soil, Healthy You 

Healthy roots are the key to healthy soil and healthy crops. Healthy crops are key to healthy people. And yet, most of us don’t go around chatting about roots every day. We probably should. 

Think about it. During the spring in Oklahoma, one acre of pasture has about 1,000 pounds of plant mass aboveground, but there are about 3,500 pounds of roots below the ground. Healthy roots can increase crop yields, reduce the need for fertilizers and chemical pesticides, and filter more carbon dioxide out of the air. Roots make better air, better food, and more of it. 

The Root of Our Commitment to Soil Health

At Gills Onions, we know the difference that healthy soil makes. Our onions are the best because our soil is the best, and our soil is the best because we care about our roots. 

Our farmers grow each onion “The Gill Way.” We take the time to understand the composition and microbiology of the soil and boost soil health with a balanced blend of macro- and micronutrients that work together to create a microbe-friendly environment. With healthy soil in place, our onions can grow larger, more aggressive root systems, creating healthier stalks and leaves. 

We also promote sustainable ag practices like regenerative farming, drip irrigation, and innovative seed development that reduces the need for pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. 

We’re passionate about caring for the environment and educating everyone around us about the importance and the beauty of where our food comes from. That’s why we wrote an entire article about roots. Roots matter, and it’s time we all got back to ours. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

Preparing a Generation for Sustainable Ag: How to Talk to Your Children

At Gills Onions, so much of what we do and how we do it is because we are thinking about future generations. We employ sustainable farming practices and strive to minimize our impact on the environment. But we realize that some of the most important work for the rising generation is done by parents in their homes. 

Talking to children about where their food and clothing comes from and the importance of sustainable agriculture is essential. When a child appreciates the role of agriculture in their everyday life, they are more conscientious about their own impact on our earth and want to share what they’ve learned with others. That is the basis of true change. 

How do you talk to your children about agriculture and sustainability? How can you help them gain an appreciation and respect for this essential industry? Here are a few ideas. 

Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?

Behind every piece of food you eat is a farmer. Farmers are also responsible for many of the clothes you wear, the carpets you walk on, the bedding you sleep with, and even the bandages you use when you’re injured. Agriculture keeps us alive, but farmers are one of the most forgotten groups of essential workers in our country. 

Starting a conversation on this important topic is simple. You may try asking your children, “Do you know where your food comes from?” or “We bought this onion at the store, but do you know where it came from before that?” 

Remember that a simple explanation is always best. Allow your children to lead the conversation and ask questions. Be honest and open, and if you don’t know the answer, say, “Let’s learn about it together.”

Fun Ideas for Learning About Agriculture

If you think agriculture is boring, think again! There are so many fun activities you can do with your children to learn more about farming, sustainability, and caring for our earth’s precious resources. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Go to the library and check out books about farming and agriculture. 
  • Look up your child’s favorite fruit or vegetable online and learn about how it grows and how it is harvested and brought from the farm to your table. 
  • Grow your own garden. You can even begin with a single potted plant in your windowsill. Teach children the basics of growing. 
  • Visit a local farm and learn firsthand from a real life farmer. 
  • Spend time on YouTube watching videos on growing and harvest crops (we use some pretty cool heavy machinery). You can even take virtual farm tours.
  • Conduct farming experiments. Expose plants to different nutrients and stimuli and observe how they react. 
  • Join a local farming co-op to try new vegetables directly from local farmers. 
  • Have children help plan family meals and shop for ingredients. 
  • Visit a farmer’s market and talk to the farmers about their goods. 
  • Visit a local pick-your-own fruits and vegetables farm. 

Healthy Habits Start with Food Appreciation

Obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the US. Part of encouraging children to develop a healthy relationship with food is being grateful for the food we eat. As children are exposed to a variety of fresh foods and are excited about trying new fruits and vegetables, they will develop healthy habits and positive associations with what they eat. 

And, as children think about caring and nurturing for the plants and animals that feed us, they will also think about sustainable ways to care for our planet and preserve it for their own children. 
We’re excited to partner with you as you delve into the exciting world of agriculture. Visit our blog for more ideas and information, and start by getting to know our farmers, Steve and David Gill.