Jerry M. Parsons
Extension Vegetable Specialist Emeritus
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

In October, 1974, I came to San Antonio to work for the Texas Agriculture Extension Service (now in ‘2022 called Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service) as an Extension Vegetable Specialist. I have been here for over 40 years working in all areas of Horticulture. When I observe something can be improved or corrected, I have not been “shy” to address the problem. This attitude caused some concerns with my administrators at Texas A&M but after about 20 years they realized my intentions were justified and somewhat tolerated. Such was the case when exposing purposely mislabeled hybrid tomato transplants; substituting inferior plants for an improved selection; selling diseased, inferior varieties to unsuspecting customers, etc. Exposing and correcting these problems caused extreme controversy and even anger from administrators and perpetrators but, in the end, problems were corrected and solved.

Such was the case with onion transplants being sold in Texas in the late 1970’s. Buyers were offered only onion transplants which were labeled “red” (probably ‘Burgundy Red’), “white” (probably ‘Crystal Wax’) and “yellow” (Who knows what variety!) with no variety named. Also, the onion plants sold to retail nurseries and garden centers were diseased with pink root fungus (a fungus disease which kills the root system) and remains in the soil to contaminate future plantings. The quality of the onion transplant used will largely determine the bulbing success so gardeners were not having the best results.

After consulting with Mr. Ernest Mortensen and other Vegetable Specialists (Tom Longbrake, Dr. Roland Roberts and Dr. Sam Cotner), I realized that the possibility of making improved onion varieties available to the public could greatly improve gardener’s success when growing onions. Unfortunately, all onion transplants being sold to the public and garden centers were being grown by only five producers and they were not interested in buying the more expensive, new hybrid seed – they wanted to keep “business-as-usual”.

To alleviate this problem, I began working with a local transplant grower named William (Bill or Pete) Peterson of Peterson Brothers Wholesale Nursery. Mr. Peterson let a young Paul Kosub devise the plan to grow onion transplants in four-inch containers—something which had never been tried. This project began in the late 1970’s.

Paul worked out a system which would produce 15-20 transplants in a 4-inch container filled with a pasteurized, disease-free potting mix. Each container was directly seeded with the hybrid onion variety of a ‘Grano 502’ progeny such as the Texas A&M Supersweet onion 1015Yellow using custom made “spoons” from a one quarter inch section of small copper tubing glued to an old-fashioned wooden plant label -- each spoon would scoop 15-20 seed which were placed on the surface of the planting mix and covered with a thin layer of calcite clay (Kitty Litter) to maintain moisture to the seed.

The plants produced seemed to me to be “thin” and “sickly” looking BUT when individual, small transplants were carefully separated and planted, gardeners began to produce the largest, sweetest onions they had ever grown!

Do you think EVERYONE would be “happy”? NO!!!!

Wallace Wiley Martin was born on August 28, 1924, in Indian Gap, Texas. He peacefully departed this life on January 25, 2018, in Carrizo Springs, Texas, at the age of 93 years and 5 months. After the war ended, he returned to The University of Texas and received his BS in Civil Engineering in 1948. Following graduation, Wallace moved to Carrizo Springs, where he joined his father-in-law in operating Dixondale Farms. He also worked with Texas A&M in the development of the Yellow Granex and 1015Y Super Sweet onions. He was a past recipient of the Texas Vegetable Association Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the 2016 Texas International Produce Hall of Fame. Wallace Martin and Dixondale Farms are now, and has been, the largest grower of onion transplants in Texas and the U.S. Wallace Martin, grew true-to-name, disease-free onion transplants, as well as producing other crops such as cabbage and cauliflower.

Wallace Martin (left) with Bruce Frasier
Wallace Martin (left) with Bruce Frasier

Two men (Bruce Frasier on left and Jerry Parsons) out standing in their field
Two men (Bruce Frasier on left and Jerry Parsons) out standing in their field

Written by Bruce Frasier, son-in-law of Wallace Martin in 2007

“On February 3, 1985, Dr. Jerry Parsons wrote an article in the San Antonio Light Newspaper which would change the course of my family’s agriculture production business forever and, indeed, insure its survival. Basically Dr. Parsons had noticed that no true-to-name, disease-free onion transplants were being sold to home gardeners. To remedy this situation, he convinced a commercial bedding plant producer to grow onion transplants in a 4-inch container using the Extension-recommended onion varieties. The statement was made: “Only onion transplants grown in these 4-inch containers using pasteurized potting mix and clearly labeled as to the variety being purchased can be expected to be disease-free, true-to-variety, and produce the best onions.” “

Onion Transplants with shipping boxes at Dixondale
Onion Transplants with shipping boxes at Dixondale

“When my father-in-law Wallace Martin read that, he almost had to be hospitalized!! Wallace and his father-in-law had been growing disease-free and true-to-variety onion transplants for over 60 years and shipped them by train and truck to farmers throughout the United States. Dixondale Farms was one of the largest onion transplant shippers in the world and here was this A&M, Ph.D., “kid” horticulturist making a statement that only those onion transplants growing in the container were “disease-free, true-to-variety, and produce the best onions.” Heads were going to roll over this!!”

“The ONION TRANSPLANT SHOWDOWN occurred at the Uvalde Texas Country Club at high-noon. Wallace had never met Parsons, but Parsons had heard of the legendary, very influential Martin. Texas A&M sent its most respected vegetable specialist, Tom Longbrake to mediate. Words were few but a major point was made to Wallace. Wallace told Parsons his family had been growing onion transplants for over 60 years and they were certified to be “disease-free, true-to-variety, and plants of the A&M recommended varieties”. Wallace reminded Parsons that Dixondale was the largest onion transplant producer in Texas and shipped transplants to commercial producers throughout the United States. All Parsons had to say was: “That’s great!! Now, how many do you sell to the home gardeners of Texas and the U.S.?””

“The answer to that question ended the conversation and set the course for the future and ultimate survival of Dixondale Farms. Dixondale Farms was not selling ANY of its quality product to home gardeners and Wallace was NOT going to change his marketing strategy of selling onion transplants by the thousands of truck loads just to accommodate this young horticultural journalist! THE GOOD NEWS was that in 1982, I had gotten out of the Army and had begun working with Dixondale Farms. After this confrontation, Wallace’s daughter Jeanie, my wife, and I convinced Wallace to let us try selling some onion transplants by mail-order. Wallace begrudgingly agreed but knew this “piddley” way of selling onion transplants would never amount to anything but trouble. He never imagined how large quantities of onion transplants such as produced at Dixondale could ever be sold by mail-order!“

“In 1990, we began sending out small quantities via UPS with Parsons spreading the word of a quality producer who was now selling and shipping true-to-name onion transplants. The business has grown today to where the entire family is working in the business and over 85% of our onion transplant field production is going to the home gardener market. We are the only remaining onion transplant producer of the 6 or 8 commercial producers which existed when we changed our marketing strategy because of the Parsons’ challenge to Wallace Martin. We are now the largest mail-order distributor of onion transplants in the world -- today we ship over 800 million onion plants to farmers, home gardeners, and garden centers around the country.

“In his mid-80’s, Wallace was still active in the business and helped to make day-to-day decisions. He and Dr. Parsons were best of friends and were always amazed how a serious confrontation over onion transplants so magnificently prospered our family’s now over 100-year-old business.”

This is probably the most important example of how:


Dixondale Farms now sells its quality product in every state. See: Over 100 years later, Dixondale Farms has grown to become the largest grower of onion plants in the USA.

Bruce Frasier and his lovely and talented wife Jeanie
Do you think this was easy? This is an image of Bruce and Jeanie in 1990
when in 1990, Dixondale began sending out small quantities of onion transplants via UPS.

Check out the couple in the 2020 image – a mere 30 years later!

Bruce Frasier and his lovely and talented wife Jeanie
Bruce Frasier and his lovely and talented wife Jeanie, owners, operators and creators
of the largest mail-order distributor of onion transplants in the world. Date: 2020


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