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. 

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.

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.

The Undeniable Connection Between Soil and Your Health

If there is one thing that the past year has taught us, it is that our health is precious. At Gills Onions, we are dedicated to promoting healthy living. We do that by employing sustainable business processes for a healthy planet, growing vegetables that promote physical health, and using responsible agricultural practices for healthy soil. 

Why do we put so much time and effort into caring for dirt? Because soil health and human health are connected.

How Soil Affects Your Health

Soil can affect our health in many ways. Some are good, and some are bad. Some are clear and direct, while others aren’t as obvious. 

Let’s look at the good first. Soil is the source of elements that are essential for human health. According to the European Journal of Soil Science, “Hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sulphur, and chlorine make up 99.9% of the atoms in the human body, with all but hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon having soil as their major source.” Does that mean you should go out and eat a handful of dirt? Absolutely not. The nutrients from the dirt are transferred to the plants and animals that are responsible for our diets every day. 

But what happens if the soil isn’t healthy? Some soil, either naturally or through human intervention, can contain imbalanced or even toxic levels of elements or chemical compounds that follow those same pathways of transfer into our diet and into our bodies — all without us even realizing it. 

Microbes: Small but Strong

The soil microbiome is the world’s most hopping community that you’ve never heard about. The topmost layer of the soil where plants put down their roots is humming with interactions between microscopic organisms like viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and algae. This underground exchange is responsible for healthy plants — which are responsible for healthy animals and humans — by, as Agriculture.com describes, “promoting germination, stimulating roots, accelerating growth, and bolstering resistance to disease.” It’s good stuff. 

Soil microbes have a huge impact on the nutritional health of our food, but our diet and the dirt that we come in contact with every day can also affect our own microbiome. That’s right. Human beings host a thriving community of microbes, too. The Atlantic reports that, “The normal microbial make-up of a healthy human, a collection of bacteria, fungi, one-celled archaea, and viruses … weighs about three pounds — the same as our brain.”

We need microbes for healthy food and healthy bodies, but unfortunately, our society has unknowingly destroyed many of the vital microbes in our soil by overusing chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides and by over-tilling. Fortunately, advances in technology allow us to repair the damage through conscious and regenerative farming practices that repair damaged soil and restore healthy microbial communities. 

Caring for You Through Our Soil 

We grow our onions “The Gill Way,” a process that ensures we maintain soil health and promote sustainable agriculture. We know that everything that happens to our soil, happens to our onions — and that means it happens to every person who eats our onions, too. 

We use soil science to understand the composition and microbiology of the soil and how it will interact with plant biology. Our onions and our fields work together to make each other stronger and healthier. Growers boost soil health with a balanced blend of macro- and micronutrients that work together with carbon and organic materials to create an environment that makes microbes happy and aid in water absorption.

Healthy soil helps our onions grow larger, more aggressive root mass. Better roots mean the plants are more productive and better able to fight against harsh weather, insects, and disease. So, our growers can use fewer chemicals. 

You may look out your window and just see dirt, but we see a vital resource. Only 30% of our planet is land, and of that land, only 11% is used in crop production. By caring for our soil, we know we are caring for you, our customers, and that’s just how it should be. 

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

The Power of Knowing Your Farmer

Behind every piece of food you eat — not to mention many of the clothes you wear, the carpets you walk on, and the bandages you use when you’re injured — is a farmer. Knowing the source of so many of the things we rely on every day and the food that keeps us alive is crucial to supporting the farmers that make it possible. Without them, we’d be in bad shape. 

In the spirit of #KnowYourFarmer, we’re here to share more about the farmers that make Gills Onions possible and encourage you to learn more about the farmers in your area that make life possible. 

Behind Every Food There Is a Farmer

Farmers and ranchers make us just 1.3% of the employed U.S. population. In 1960, the average U.S. farmer fed about 26 people. Today, that number has grown to 155 people. American farmers represent one of the most important — and often most forgotten — groups of workers in our country. Without them, we’d all starve. Our farmers need our support!

In order to keep up with America’s population growth, the Ag industry will need to grow more food in the next 50 years than in the past 10,000 years combined, and it needs to do it without depleting precious natural resources. 

That’s where terms like “conscious farming” and “regenerative agriculture” come into play. The connection from the soil to the plant to the farmer to your table is one giant circle. At Gills Onions, we know that healthy soil leads to healthy plants, and healthy soil benefits generations. That’s why we control every part of the growing process from seed to packaging. Our mission is to be fully aware of the impact our efforts as one of the largest fresh-cut processing plants in the world have on the environment. 

Over the years, Gills Onions has been able to reduce our usage of chemicals and minimize our impact on the air, land, water, and other energy resources that surround us. We do so through verified sustainable ag practices like:

  • Increasing plant yields per acre and decreasing the amount of land required for growing 
  • Innovative seed development that reduces the need for pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers
  • Integrated pest management 
  • Drip irrigation  

Additionally, Gills Onions is dedicated to our Zero Waste initiative. Over the past decade, we’ve developed strategies that have helped us move toward diverting 100% of our waste into productive outlets. Our company’s waste diversion reached 99.2% in 2018. 

Our Farmers: Steve and David Gill 

The story of Gills Onions begins with two brothers, Steve and David Gill. These fourth generation California farmers grew up on a small farm in King City, but they had big plans. 

Together they expanded the family business to more than 20,000 acres in the state of California. They partnered with other local growers to add an additional 10,000 acres of usable farmland to the operation. 

Steve and David personally developed our signature prescription for growing onions. Growing “The Gill Way” ensures that all of our produce is grown in the most environmentally conscious way and creates the industry’s most delicious and longest lasting onions. 

Today, Steve and David own dozens of agricultural companies ranging from western vegetable farming operations to vineyards and wineries. They are vertically integrated from their own seedling nursery, farming, harvesting, cooling, shipping, transportation, and fresh-cut produce as well as juice and plants.

Though they are some of the busiest people we know, our founders are intimately involved with daily farming operations and continue to lead Gills Onions as a family owned and operated company. The family is just a little bigger now. 

Our Commitment to You

Gills Onions is committed to providing you with the highest quality products and services in the industry. We’re also committed to taking care of the land we rely on so that it’s able to provide for future generations. We are proud to serve you!

We hope you’ll take a moment to support and get to know the farmers in your neck of the woods. 

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

Onion Power: Sustainable, Affordable, and Zero-Waste

Gills Onions is proud to operate one of the largest, most innovative fresh-cut onion processing plants in the world. But since the day we peeled our first onion, we knew that waste was going to be a challenge.  

Our 100,000 square foot plant can process up to a million pounds of raw onions in a day, creating an average of 150 tons of onion waste. How could we put that waste to good use? 

The answer is Onion Power. 

A Better Way to Use Waste

Our vision has always been to explore and implement new technologies that maximize our conservation and improve our efficiency. 

When an onion is peeled, nearly 40% is waste. In the past, we trucked this waste — averaging about 250,000 pounds each day — to our nearby farms, where it was worked back into the soil. But this practice wasn’t truly sustainable. It started proving problematic for soil conditions and costly. 

After a nationwide collaboration, Gills Onions began using onion remains to generate electricity. The system, dubbed the Advanced Energy Recovery System (AERS), converts onion waste into electricity. In 2009, the AERS officially opened, making Gills Onions the first food processing facility in the world to produce ultra-clean energy from onion remains. The process extracts juice from onion peels and treats it in a high-rate anaerobic reactor. The result is methane-rich biogas, which can be used like natural gas. The remaining pulp or “cake” is sold as high value cattle feed. 

Since becoming operational, the waste-to-energy system, produced 25 gigawatt hours of electricity, or enough to power 3,740 California homes for a full year. This groundbreaking system converts onion waste into ultra-clean, virtually emissions-free electricity. We lovingly refer to this process as “Onion Power.”

With Onion Power in place, we eliminate the labor intensive and expensive process of hauling our waste. 

Our Commitment to Continued Innovation

At Gills Onions, we know our role extends far past onion growing and processing. We are global citizens with an obligation to preserve and protect our environment. This commitment is central to our values, because we believe it is simply the right thing to do.   

In 2019 we expanded our commitment to clean energy by adding a rooftop solar photovoltaic system to the Oxnard plant. Sized at 472 kW, the system has enough capacity to generate 10% of the plant’s electricity demand.

Our goal is to ensure that generations far into the future can enjoy the delicious taste of the world’s best onions. 

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

Healthy Soil Makes Healthy Onions

Since our founding in 1983, Gills Onions has passionately explored new technologies and methods to help us maximize conservation and sustainability. 

We understand that our success is tied to the success of the land where our onions grow. Healthy soil makes healthy onions. For Gills Onions to be the best, the fields need to be the best, too. 

Growing onions “The Gill Way” means consciously farming — protecting the integrity of the land by understanding and reducing the impact we have on the soil and the surrounding environment. 

Our Prescription for Soil Health

Our farmers grow each Gills Onion “The Gill Way.” This onion-growing prescription was personally developed by our founders, Steve and David Gill, and ensures that our products are grown in the most environmentally conscious way — maintaining soil health and promoting ag sustainability. 

Everything that happens to the soil, happens to our onions. So, we treat our soil with the utmost care.

Soil science is absolutely key. We must understand the composition and microbiology of the soil and how it will interact with plant biology. By considering both sides of the equation in our farming — the plant and the fertile soil — our onions and the fields work together to strengthen each other. 

Our growers boost soil health with a balanced blend of macro- and micronutrients. These nutrients are the foundation of a stable soil environment. The chelated micronutrients work together with carbon and organic materials to create a microbe-friendly environment for optimum proliferation. Our prescription of nutrients aids in absorption and water uptake and reduces soil salt concentrations. 

Thriving soil helps onion plants establish a larger, more aggressive root mass, which leads to healthier stalks and leaves. The resulting plants are more productive and are better able to withstand harsh weather, insects, and disease. 

With healthy soil, our growers are able to reduce their usage of chemicals. And, growing “The Gill Way” has allowed them to successfully reduce the use of nitrogen by more than 50% compared to other onion growers. 

Minimizing Our Impact on the Soil

At Gills Onions, we further minimize our impact on the soil through sustainable ag practices like:

  • Increasing plant yields per acre and decreasing the amount of land required for growing 
  • Innovative seed development that reduces the need for pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers
  • Drip irrigation that reduces soil erosion and nutrient runoff

Our growers have reconfigured planting beds in the Imperial Valley to increase plants per acre by 15%, reducing the land required to achieve the same yield by 22%. 

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.  

We understand that each growing region is unique. What promotes soil health in one field may not apply in another. That’s why we work with our growers to find the most sustainable practices for each location.

Farming Consciously and Living Well

Each day, we’re learning more about sustainable ag practices and how we can protect our soil and the environment.

By nurturing the land where our farmers grow our onions, we are able to consistently produce onions of the highest quality without compromising valuable resources. We believe that the benefits of growing “The Gill Way” will extend into the future, allowing us to provide the world with delicious onions for generations to come.

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

Every Day Is Earth Day at Gills Onions

Since our founding in 1983, Gills Onions has dedicated our entire operation to values of sustainability, transparency, and conscious farming. We’ve passionately explored new technologies and approaches that help us maximize our conservation efforts and preserve our earth for future generations. 

At Gills Onions, every day is earth day. Our mission is to be fully aware of the impact our efforts as one of the largest fresh-cut processing plants in the world have on the environment. Every day, we continuously make and achieve goals that hold us accountable to our earth in each organizational and operational level of our business. 

Here are some of the ways we are pioneering regenerative agriculture and eco-friendly business practices and how we are encouraging others in our industry to do the same. 

Our Commitment to Conscious Farming 

Terms like “conscious farming’ and “regenerative farming” boil down to one core principle: reversing the effects of climate change by undertaking agriculture practices that make our environment better. 

We know that healthy soil leads to healthy plants, and healthy soil lasts for generations. We know that everything that happens to our soil happens to our onions and to our planet, so we treat it with the utmost care. 

Through our unique seed to shipment onion growing prescription, Gills Onions is able to reduce our usage of chemicals and minimize our impact on the air, land, water, and other energy resources that surround us. We do so through verified sustainable ag practice like:

  • Increasing plant yields per acre and decreasing the amount of land required for growing 
  • Innovative seed development that reduces the need for pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers
  • Integrated pest management 
  • Drip irrigation  

Farming onions “The Gill Way” has reduced our growers’ use of nitrogen by more than 50% compared to other onion growing operations. We’ve also reduced water consumption by 40%, which means we now conserve enough water each year to meet the annual needs of 2,900 households in our home state of California.  

Curbing Our Environmental Effects Through Zero Waste 

In 2009, we decided to hold ourselves accountable to our own mission of conservation. Gills Onions made a goal to achieve zero waste in our processing, warehouse, and offices. 

Over the past decade, we’ve developed strategies that have helped us move toward diverting 100% of our waste into productive outlets. 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.

For example, our innovative Onion Power program uses the Advanced Energy Recovery System (AERS), which converts all of our onion waste into ultra-clean, virtually emissions-free electricity. It provides 100% of the base electrical load for our processing plant, which eliminates 14,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. 

By being transparent about our energy usage and resource management, we hope to set the standard for other companies to evaluate how they can work toward eliminating waste as well. Every step we take toward environmental accountability makes our world a better place. 

Advocating for Community Change 

Too often, businesses shy away from words like “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” fearing that they will hurt their bottom line. At Gills Onions, we’ve found the opposite to be true. Our earth-friendly initiatives have positively impacted our employees, our customers, our industry, and most importantly, our environment. 

And these practices have benefitted our bottom line. We’ve been able to reduce operational costs, increase efficiency, improve our resource management, and achieve greater energy independence. 

By thinking about how we can better care for our earth each day, we are driving innovation and leading the charge for green policies and practices that benefit everyone. We are advocating for and supporting environmentally-friendly initiatives in the ag industry and in our nation. 

We hope you will join us by supporting and implementing practices in your own home and business that help preserve our earth. To get started, explore these simple ideas. Together, we can all make our world a better place. 

Happy Earth Day!

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

Join Us to Celebrate World Water Day

Water, Onions & Our World

Water is one of — if not THE — most precious resource on our planet. It is essential for sustaining life. As human beings, we are 60% water. Onions start off at about 83% water. At Gills Onions, we care deeply about our people, our products, and our environment. That’s why we are so excited to celebrate World Water Day on March 22. Here’s why you should celebrate too. 

Let’s Talk About Water

The United Nations designated World Water Day to highlight the importance of fresh water. It’s a day to advocate for sustainable practices and put water at the heart of climate policy and action plans. According to the United Nations, “Extreme weather events are making water more scarce, more unpredictable, more polluted or all three. Humans need water to survive, as do all the systems we rely on: sanitation, healthcare, education, business and industry.” We’d like to add agriculture to that list. We need water to grow the food that we eat every day. Everyone eats, and water is an essential part of getting food from the field to your plate. 

Without Water, There Are No Onions

Onions need roughly 30 inches of water each season to grow. That may not sound like much, but remember that about 9.2 million acres of onions are grown and harvested each year worldwide. Onions provide important nutrients that humans need to be healthy. They are high in vitamin C and contain calcium, iron, high quality proteins, fiber, and folic acid. They are low in sodium and fat free. Research has even shown that onions can reduce the risk of cancer. So, we need onions. Onions need water. The question, then, is how can we use water most efficiently and grow onions in a sustainable way?

Gills Onions’ Approach to Water Sustainability 

At Gills Onions, we are dedicated to sustainable agricultural practices. That’s why we converted 99% of our conventional irrigation methods to drip irrigation, reducing water consumption in our California fields by 40%. That change conserves enough water in our fields to meet the annual needs of 2,900 homes. In our processing facility, a wastewater treatment plant treats about 180,000 gallons of production wastewater each day. Ultimately, 100% of this water is purified and recycled back to our facility for reuse. 

There is always more we can do to protect our environment and preserve our earth’s most precious resources. This World Water Day, how will you raise awareness and protect freshwater in your area? Share with us on social media!

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

Let’s Talk Sustainability

We operate one of the largest, most innovative fresh-cut onion processing plants in the world. But with a plant capable of processing up to a million pounds of raw onions in a day, we know that sustainability is key. 

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. 

Sustainability Starts from the Seed

Our farmers grow each Gills Onions “The Gill Way.” This onion-growing prescription was personally developed by our founders, Steve and David Gill, and ensures that our products are grown in the most environmentally conscious way — maintaining soil health and promoting ag sustainability. 

We believe healthy soil leads to healthy plants. Everything that happens to the soil, happens to our onions. So, we treat our soil with the utmost care. Soil science is absolutely key. We must understand the composition and microbiology of the soil and how it will interact with plant biology. By considering both sides of the equation in our farming — the plant and the fertile soil — our onions and the fields work together to strengthen each other. 

With healthy soil, our growers are able to reduce their usage of chemicals. Healthier, more productive plants are better able to withstand harsh weather, insects, and disease. We minimize our impact on air, land, water, and other energy resources through sustainable ag practices like:

  • Increasing plant yields per acre and decreasing the amount of land required for growing 
  • Innovative seed development that reduces the need for pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers
  • Integrated pest management 
  • Drip irrigation  

Our growers have reconfigured planting beds in the Imperial Valley to increase plants per acre by 15%, reducing the land required to achieve the same yield by 22%. Farming onions “The Gill Way” has reduced our growers’ use of nitrogen by more than 50% compared to other onion growing operations. And by converting 99% of our conventional irrigation methods to drip irrigation, Gills Onions has reduced water consumption by 40%. That means we conserve enough water each year to meet the annual needs of 2,900 households in our home state of California.  

We understand that each growing region is unique. What promotes environmental health in one field may not apply in another. That’s why we work with our growers to find the most sustainable practices for their location. 

Our Zero Waste Facility 

In 2009, Gills Onions made a goal to achieve zero waste in our processing, warehouse, and office facilities. 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 a productive outlet. 

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. 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. 

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 environmental sustainability. 

Fueling with Onion Power

A highlight of our sustainability program 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. 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 a high annual cost to transport the 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 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. 

Healthy Practices Are Sustainable

Each day, we are learning more about sustainable ag practices and how we can protect the environment. At Gills Onions, we want to lead the charge for effective policies and practices that benefit all stakeholders — our business, our farmers, our customers, and our earth. By demonstrating responsibility and leadership, we hope to encourage environmentally-friendly initiatives in our nation and in our industry. 

By nurturing the land where our farmers grow our onions and conserving our resources, we are able to consistently produce onions of the highest quality without compromising valuable resources. We believe that the benefits of growing “The Gill Way” will extend into future generations. 

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