view current print edition




Markets aside, great Vidalia season starts with a great crop for Bland Farms

A month ago, Delbert Bland of Bland Farms LLC in Glennville, GA, wondered if what was looking like an excellent Vidalia onion crop would find a hospitable market when it arrived in mid-April. With a winter glut of sweet onions and more on the way from Mexico and Texas, Bland had no idea how the market would shake out.

But Mexico’s quality has been “spotty” and the Texas deal, which is late coming off, shows similar inconsistencies, said Bland, who grows in all three areas as well as Peru.

Bland-2Bland Farms is famous for sweet onions from around the Western Hemisphere, but its Vidalia crop is still king of the hill. “It’s changed a lot in the last two or three weeks,” Bland said of the market. “I feel much better about (the potential market for) Vidalia than I did a month or two ago. With the challenges we’re having in Mexico and Texas, I’d rather commit to Vidalias the second week in April right now than I would Texas because I’m not sure Texas is going to be consistent enough. They’re going to have onions but they’re down on the crop size and there are a lot of questions about the crop they do have.”

The Vidalia crop, meanwhile, could be one for the ages.

“Our crop is excellent at this point,” Bland said in mid-March. “We’re excited about it. We’ve got an excellent stand and that’s the first part. We’ve had an average winter, a few cold snaps but you need some cold weather while they’re dormant. We’ve had a lot of rain, but we normally do, so right now we feel pretty good about the way everything the looks.”

Bland believes his deal will come off by the middle of April at the latest.

“I think we’ll be going by mid-April without any problem and it could very well be before that, the second week of April if the good weather continues,” Bland said. “The 45-day forecast looks really good and unless we have some tremendously adverse weather from here on in we should be in good shape. A lot still has to happen but at least we’ve had the right ingredients to make it that direction. Something adverse has to happen to slow us down at this point.”

Markets aside, what determines the success of the Vidalia season is the onion itself.

“The biggest thing I’m excited about is the quality of the crop,” Bland said. “At the end of the day you can play with markets and talk about all that, but the difference between us having a good year and not having a good year is the quality of the crop and that’s what really makes it. At the end of the day, it’s our quality.”

Bland’s Vidalia deal “is tucking in real well together” with the sweet potato program launched last year.

“The sweet potatoes we produced had a very high brix content in them,” meaning high sugars and sweeter potatoes, Bland said.

“We were pretty excited and we have really gotten tremendous feedback from everybody we’ve been shipping to. They have really been pleased with the presentation we ‘ve made and the supply we’ve given them.”

Bland will continue to supply key customers with sweet potatoes from other growing areas throughout the summer before returning with its fall Georgia-grown crop in September.