Walla Walla farmer ‘devastated’ as high temps destroy onion crops

Only six out of 30 onion acres were able to be saved before the heatwave wiped them out in just three days

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — The scent of caramelized onions fills the air outside at Walla Walla’s Enriquez Farms.

Where rows of plump, juicy, and golden sweet onions should be ready for picking right at the height of the season, instead lay broken husks of red and yellow alliums cooking inside their skins.

It’s a sad sight for Fernando Enriquez Sr., the long-time owner of the farm.

He came to Washington in 1977 and he and Fernando Enriquez Jr. have taken on growing sweet onions for over 30 years.

“I like farming and I like to raise Walla Walla sweets,” Enriquez Sr. said.

For those who haven’t had the luxury of partaking in a Walla Walla onion, they’re large, mellow, and sweet with a pure flavor compared to the harsher, smaller ones normally found in a typical grocery store.

“Raising onions is like raising babies because you start in September and you harvest June 10, so that’s 9 months,” Enriquez Sr. said.

After nearly a year of hard work for Enriquez Sr. and his small team of 20 employees, the majority of the crop was devastatingly wiped out in just three days due to the Pacific Northwest’s historic heatwave.

“The next day it’s over 100 degrees and they got cooked so there’s nothing we can do to save it,” Enriquez Sr. said. “You cannot put them in the market because you will not be able to eat those onions.”

Enriquez Sr. bent down to pick up an onion from the field, peeling the layers back to reveal a squishy brown center.

“You can see it got hot here and kind of mushy,” Enriquez Sr. said.

Out of 30 onion acres, only six could be saved or 1/5th of the entire crop. One acre produces between 65 to 75 bins and each bin weighs about 1,000 pounds.

Bins sell between $250 dollars to $300 dollars.

“It’s never happened to me before but there’s nothing I can do,” Enriquez Sr. said.

Now he plans on reaching out to different government agencies to try to receive federal aid in hopes of recovering some of the funds lost this past year.

“We’re going to keep on going. We’re going to go back next year and try again,” Enriquez Sr. said.

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