Onion Transplants | Carrizo Springs, TX, February 2015

Onion Transplants are harvested from November until the end of May at the Dixondale Farm in the Wintergarden area of west Texas, just outside the town of Carrizo Springs. With relatively no winter, average lows are still well above freezing, and little precipitation (about 19 inches of rainfall a year), the onion transplants are able to grow in warm sunny days even in December and January.  Dixondale Farm harvests 10 acres a week by hand and it takes 30 weeks to harvest the entire farm. The onion transplants are shipped all over the country to other farms where they will grow into regular sized onions.   Onion transplants are the stage of an onion after they have sprouted and are about a pencil size thick and 16 inches long, just a few weeks before the onion would be categorized as a scallion.  The transplants are grown in two foot wide rows with about two feet between them.  Harvesters move down the space between the rows on their knees, pulling a large handful of transplants from each side out of the soil and then putting a rubber band around the bundle.  Some harvesters have the rubber bands in a container near by, but many put up to a hundred rubber bands on their wrist to make the process of tying the transplants off faster.  After they tie the bundle, the harvester cuts off the excess sprout off the transplant, which is about half of the plant.  Every harvester has their own homemade cutter.  The cutters have to be stable on the ground, easy to move and sharp at the top.  They range from car license plates with pieces of wood screwed to the bottom, to a hand saw welded to a metal base for stability.  Some harvesters even weld small bowls to the top of the cutter to hold their rubber bands.   The resulting onion transplant bundle which is around 8 inches long and 4 inches wide is then tossed into a pile nearby where the harvester later gathers them and gently packs the transplants into a two by three foot box that is shipped to other farms all over the country. Harvesters typically wear hats, long sleeved shirts and pants to protect their skin from the constant sun.  They also wear sunglasses because of the amount of dust stirred up by the wind and the picking process.