LAKE WALES, Fla. — Seeking to benefit from the end of the offshore deals and the start of the Vidalia season, Mack Farms Inc. has started shipping sweet onions.

Mack Farms enters sweet onion deal

Doug Ohlemeier

Ken Wiles, general manager Mack Farms Inc., Lake Wales, Fla., in a field of sweet onions. The grower-shipper of potatoes and watermelon has started shipping sweet onions.

The grower-shipper of red, white and yellow potatoes and watermelon began shipping onions in late February.

Though it tested growing on a small trial plot last year, Mack Farms this season increased its acreage to 55 acres. It expects to ship around 24,000 40-pound equivalent cartons.

Ken Wiles, general manager, said the quality of the onions looks strong.

“We have learned a lot this year,” Wiles said March 21. “It has been a positive experience. The onions look really good. They have a good taste.”

Wiles said the sweet onions are a varietal that is similar to Vidalia sweet onions. He said the Florida-grown sweets are a mild sweet onion containing high water content.

Though north Florida growers in the St. Augustine and Hastings region have grown sweet onions in the past, Wiles said onions haven’t been a large commercially grown item in Florida.

Mack Farms plans to market its onions in the Southeast between the end of the Peru offshore deal and the start of the Vidalia deal. This year’s Vidalia season has officially been scheduled to start April 18. Wiles said Mack Farms has been loading the onions as mixer items on its loads of red potatoes.

Mack Farms plans to ship the onions through mid-April.

In other news, the operation which grows potatoes on 1,500 acres, has installed photo sensitive automated grading equipment to more efficiently pack its potatoes. It has also added a new water recirculation system to help lower water use.