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.

Farmers: The Pandemic’s Unsung Heroes

The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked world economies and impacted every aspect of our lives. The agriculture industry is no exception. And yet, despite unprecedented challenges, we did not — and could not — stop farming. 

At Gills Onions, we recognize and celebrate the sacrifices and contributions of our farmers and our employees. The farmers cultivating onions in the fields, the production team in our processing plants, the truck drivers that transport products, the accountants that make sure the paychecks arrive on time — these too often unsung heroes represent a segment of essential workers that make sure Americans have food to put on the table. 

Why Agriculture Is Essential 

Agriculture is one of the most essential industries in the world. Without it, humans couldn’t survive. And still, we often forget how important agriculture is and how massive an impact the farmers and workers in the agriculture industry have on our daily lives. 

It starts, of course, with the food we eat. Everything you purchase from the grocery store — fruits, vegetables, meat, tofu, spices — is readily available because a farmer gets up every day and does their job. You can take a short drive or walk to the store and get everything you need to make dinner tonight because a trucker transported those foods across thousands of miles to you. It’s so easy to get good food that it’s easy to forget the hard work behind it. 

But agriculture extends far past the foods you eat. Many of the clothes you wear, the carpets and rugs you walk on, the blankets on your bed, and even the bandages you use when you are injured originate with ag.

Agriculture is an essential part of the world economy. About 70% of people rely directly on some form of agriculture for their livelihood, and agriculture is the main source of income for many developing countries. Major exports like spices, sugar, rice, and coffee fuel international trade. 

Long story short, agriculture is about as essential as it gets. 

How COVID-19 Has Affected Ag 

The COVID-19 pandemic created new challenges for farmers all over the world and added to a series of already difficult years. Natural disasters and historically poor planting conditions put farm workers in a tight spot as they started down a global crisis unlike any we have seen this generation. 

With shut downs and closures in the commercial food sector and disruption in distribution and production, the balance of supply and demand became a rollercoaster ride. Some regions experienced short-term, localized shortages while others were left with excess supply and waste.

But farmers kept farming. Ag workers kept working. And everyone benefited from their sacrifices. With coronavirus still looming large, no one can predict what adaptations will be necessary in the months to come, but we know our industry will do what it takes to weather the storm. 

Thank You, Agriculture Heroes

At Gills Onions, our employees are the heart of our company. That’s why the health and safety of our employees is our top priority, now more than ever before. 

We are doing everything we can to take care of our employees so that we can continue to provide the best value-add onion products in the nation. We’re providing our workforce with personal protective equipment (PPE) and essential supplies while increasing social distancing. Every employee is entitled to get treatment and testing for COVID-19 without any risk of losing employment, and we provide up to 80 hours of compensation for COVID-related absences. 

What can you do to help? Start by supporting local ag. Consider joining a community farm co-op, visiting the farmer’s market, and shopping local whenever possible. Get take-out from the restaurants in your neighborhood. When you see an ag worker, say thank you. 

And, the next time you eat an onion, think of all of us here at Gills Onions. We’ll be thinking of you. 

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

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.