As the last and only steward of this special variety, Baloian Farms once again brings to market the heirloom Fresno Flat Sweet Red Onion. This week will mark the company’s 40th spring harvest.
The history of this heirloom variety dates back to the late 1950’s. Roy Kunitake, local seed breeder, had spent years trying to create the perfect flat sweet red onion. His efforts paid off. His new variety along with the rich sandy soil and warm climate of the Fresno area proved an ideal combination. Both farmers and customers loved the new variety.
For many decades, the Fresno Flat Sweet Red Onion was planted, harvested and celebrated throughout the Fresno area. However, over the years older farmers started to retire and there were no seed companies producing the variety. When Baloian Farms realized six years ago that the variety was headed for extinction, they jumped into action. “If we did not do something, this amazing variety would have disappeared forever,” said Tim Baloian, C.E.O. of Baloian Farms. “That was not something we were going to let happen.”
Baloian Farms curated their best, flattest sweet red onions at harvest, took them back to the field and replanted them by hand. The ambition was for these onions to grow a seed pod which would then be harvested, preserved and replanted for the following year, thus saving the variety from extinction. The venture to preserve this variety was and continues to be a success to this day.
“We have customers from Fresno all the way to Eastern Canada and everywhere in between that enjoy this flat sweet red onion every year” commented Jeremy Lane, Sales Manager for Baloian Farms. “It is truly a one of a kind variety and I am thankful for all of our customers who share an appreciation for it.”
The spring and summer harvest signals the completion of an endeavor that starts in early November when Baloian Farms plants the first acres for early spring harvest. All onions are hand harvested, placed into burlap sacks to cure and then packed into 40 lb. cartons.
Growing conditions for this season’s crop have been favorable. “We are opening up the first burlap sacks to start packing, and the size, color and condition look excellent,” commented Reiley Johnstone, Salesman and Commodity Manager for Baloian Farms.