Ensuring food quality & safety in the Treasure Valley
Froerer Farms grows a range of produce that gets sold to consumers either directly or via retail partners. In order to guarantee the quality and safety of these food products, the Froerer family realized that they had to be able to accurately document the growing process and all the inputs they use on their farm.
After speaking to their agronomy and inputs provider, Valley Agronomics, they realized the benefits of being able to collaborate on the same platform as their agronomist. They decided to implement Agworld in their operation as part of Valley Ag’s Platinum Precision Program.
Because Froerer Farms has implemented Agworld, they can now accurately track the inputs used on every field as well as the historic soil test and other field data from each individual field. When they get a food safety audit, Froerer Farms can now give the auditing officer access to Agworld and this officer will have all the information they need, creating a huge time saving. Froerer Farms have completely removed double entry from their record keeping. By collaborating with their Valley Ag Agronomist, they simply mark recommendations off as complete which creates detailed, accurate farm data.
Family farming on the Owyhee River
Froerer Farms is located in Nyssa, Oregon in the delta of the Owyhee River, part of the Columbia River system that empties into the Pacific Ocean. On 4,000 acres of highly fertile irrigable land, the Froerer family grows a mix of forage crops, vegetable crops such as onions, sugar beets, sweet potatoes and asparagus, as well as peppermint and spearmint. With an average field area of between 30 and 50 acres and a wide variety of crops, the Froerer family is always busy organizing logistics and ensuring that every job gets done. Father Craig Froerer, son Chase and son-in-law Jake May manage the day-to-day operations of the farm with the rest of the family involved in the processing and marketing of the crops. The Froerer family markets their crops under the Owyhee Produce brand, both to customers directly and via retail partners.
Jake comments: “Because we are vertically integrated on the onion, asparagus and mint side of our operation we tend to be busy year-round. We even have our own onion packing shed, which keeps things interesting! I manage the onion production and storage and the irrigation on about a quarter of the acreage, my brother-in-law Chase does the sugar beets and sweet potatoes for example and so on, we have everything divided up. Another part of my responsibilities is taking the lead on digital agriculture initiatives and I am the food safety officer for our company as well. It was especially with these last two roles in mind that I started to explore our options for digital farm record keeping – I realized that the time of spreadsheets and handwritten records is gone and that it pays for us to move with the time.”
Food quality and safety
Froerer Farms, like any other food producer in the US, gets audited regularly as part of their food safety certification. Jake explains: “Because we sell our produce to both customers directly as well as via retailer partners, we have to adhere to the highest food standards. This means that we get audited regularly in regard to the inputs we use and the processes we adhere to. Before we used Agworld I had to keep track of a lot of loose files and papers – which is very time consuming and stressful. Now I can just log the auditor into Agworld and show them whatever they need to see. If they need to see how much nitrogen we applied or when we last applied an insecticide – it’s all right there in Agworld. Having peace of mind that our information is accurate and available at all times is incredibly important to me.”
As with any crop grown, the relationship between agronomist and grower is very important when growing produce in order to ensure that the end- result is what the consumers want. Valley Ag agronomist Hayzen Corder explains: “When Jake first raised the topic of digital record keeping and farm management software with me, I immediately realized that what he was looking for was not just some stand-alone piece of software, but an integrated solution. As part of our Platinum Precision Program we recommend our growers implement Agworld and I could see how Agworld would have a great fit on Froerer Farms as well. Because I am on farm very regularly, I was able to help Jake and the rest of the Froerer team with the implementation process as well which really enhances what growers are able to achieve with Agworld in a very short period of time in my opinion.”
Jake adds to this: “Implementing Agworld together with our inputs and agronomy provider has really made the process very easy – between the Agworld customer success team and our agronomist we always have someone ready to help show us anything we need in Agworld. This makes a big difference to me. Because we now use Agworld together with Valley Ag, they send us all in-field recommendations through Agworld. So instead of us having to enter all input usage data ourselves, we get it from Valley Ag and all we have to do is convert their recommendation to a work order and an actual [farm record] in Agworld – talk about making things easy!
Budgeting & Planning
Each year the Froerer and Valley Ag teams sit together to start the planning process for the upcoming season. Jake explains: “This year for the onions, for example, we did all the planning in Agworld. We always knew, or rather thought we knew, what we are spending on each crop – but input prices tend to go up or down during the season, which makes it really easy to lose track of our spending. Now with having my budget and farm records in Agworld, I can track our spending in real time and so I know where we stand, from a financial perspective, at all times during the season.”
Due to the small field size and the sheer number of fields on Froerer Farms, keeping track of field history was not very easy before the team implemented Agworld. Jake: “By using Agworld I now have an accurate and up-to-date library of exactly what happened in each field when. So, I can see last year’s soil tests for example, but also the crop rotation history and when exactly we sprayed a specific pesticide last year or when we applied which kind of nutrient. Being able to visualize this information in Agworld on our farm map makes life really easy for me.”
“To me that makes a big difference, having that data right here in Agworld when I need it. When Craig asks me: ‘Do you remember what we paid for our seed this year? And how many pounds did we put on?’ – I don’t need to go look through a bunch of papers to try and find the answer; it’s right here for me in Agworld. Especially with onions that can get sprayed up to 15 times per season with anywhere from 50 to 60 different chemicals; I cannot keep track of that in an orderly fashion in a book – it takes a tool like Agworld to make that happen. And that’s also why I like the dropdown menus [with structured data] in Agworld – imagine everyone being able to enter their own chemical names… It would be a mess and we’d never get a decent report from that!”
"When we get audited for food safety purposes, all information is available right there in Agworld. Having peace of mind that our information is accurate and available at all times is incredibly important to me."
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