Nyssa will soon welcome a new employer when Field Fresh Produce begins operations as soon as this fall in this former Golden West facility. (Rachel Parsons/The Enterprise)
NYSSA – The nation’s largest supplier of fresh-packed fruits and vegetables for public schools plans to open a facility in Nyssa within the next few months.
Field Fresh Foods, based in Los Angeles, plans to renovate the former Golden West building at 418 Commercial Ave. for an operation that will employ up to 45 people.
“The city is extremely happy to have them. It is not a little deal. It is a big deal. We need them here,” said Nyssa City Manager Jim Maret.
The Nyssa facility will be primarily dedicated to cutting, packing and shipping onions, Emelio Castañeda, Field Fresh Foods president, said in an interview with the Enterprise.
“We will start with 25 (employees) and I can pretty quickly see it get to 45 and grow from there. We will be adding infrastructure and we will gauge the success and logistics of getting the product to market,” he said.
Field Fresh Foods began in Los Angeles in 1994 and employs 800 people in California.
Castañeda said the Nyssa plant will offer “good jobs.” He said the company plans to finish renovating the former Golden West building soon.
“We are hoping to use that facility and be shipping out in the fall,” said Castañeda.
Field Fresh Foods is a major supplier to many national food distribution and retail outlets, said Castañeda.
The deal to attract Field Fresh Foods to Nyssa began about a year ago, said Greg Smith, Malheur County Economic Development director.
“This is the part of economic development that folks need to understand – it is a slow process. Economic development takes time and a lot of conversations and communication,” said Smith.
Castañeda said Field Fresh Foods is already hiring truck drivers and will continue to add positions.
Smith said the firm expects to begin more widespread employee recruitment within 30 days as the renovation project for the facility moves ahead.
Smith said that Field Fresh Foods was initially interested in a location in Idaho but the Nyssa area provided the firm with a facility and land ready for expansion.
“Our location was huge. Keep in mind, I would fully anticipate other vegetables or fruits coning through the facility in the future,” said Smith.
The Covid epidemic wasn’t a major obstacle to expansion plans, said Castañeda.
“The Covid thing affected us like a lot of other companies but we are not looking at Covid as being a permanent situation. This facility will help us align our sourcing and distribution,” said Castañeda.
Castañeda said the county’s business-friendly approach was key to the decision to locate to Nyssa.
“You could see that the locals want business. Dealing with Greg Smith and some of the local officials there, it is definite an environment that a business wants to be part of,” said Castañeda.
Castañeda said relationships built over the years with local producers also played a role.
“We have been pulling onions out of the area for a long time and developed some strong relationships with some of the growers in the area. The products that come out of that growing area are top notch,” said Castañeda. “You want to be in a place where you are welcome.”
Lower transportation costs were crucial reason for the decision as well, said Castañeda.
“Savings in transportation is a huge factor. Then we started looking at the employment culture. The cost of workers compensation insurance, the cost of labor, the lower incidence of litigation, it just became a better and better option,” said Castañeda.
Maret said Field Fresh Foods were “awesome to work with.”
“They will be a great asset to our community,” said Maret.
Smith said the firm also committed to “make annual contributions to local agriculture organizations dedicated to youth, either FFA or 4H.”
“They are just good people, good hard-working people who started with an idea and have grown their company,” said Smith.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or at 541-235-1003.
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