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The buzz on Vidalias

In January, Vidalia growers faced extreme cold and even saw snow on the ground for a few days, but some warmer weather in February seemed to even things out and all involved expect a strong and healthy Vidalia season in 2018.

While the timing may be a little off compared to past years, Vidalia sweet onions are still on target to be available in early April and the numbers should be similar to recent years.

“It’s a little unusual, but what I’m seeing is that these onions are strong,” said Bob Stafford, interim executive director of the Vidalia Onion Committee. “They look really good and I’m real happy with what I’m seeing now.”

Walt Dasher, co-owner of G&R Farms, Glennville, GA, noted the cold weather may have hurt the overall stand rations, but the plant quality as of early March looked in the range of “very normal to good.”

“Since we had the cold weather in January, we can’t grow like a normal weather pattern year,” he said. “We are making growing adjustments to how we handle this year’s crop, but overall, it all looks good.”

Stafford noted that most in the industry anticipate a stronger market than 2017, which was one of the slowest markets it had experienced in a number of years.

“Most of the guys are encouraged that we can all move our onions at an acceptable market,” he said. “This will help the growers strengthen themselves for years to come.”

Troy Bland, chief operating officer of Bland Farms, Glennville, GA, who serves as chairman of the VOC, noted one of the challenges in the industry today is the Blue Book becoming smaller and smaller.

“We’ve seen a lot of consolidation in the marketplace and even a little on the farming side,” he said. “It seems harder and harder for smaller farmers to be able to compete with some of these contracts. That’s not just us, but all farming industries. It’s sad to see it becoming harder and harder for small farms to get started.”

Stafford added that there was a time when a farmer could have an off year every once in a while, but now they need a good year every year to survive.

“You have to market your crop at a profit every year to stay in business,” he said. “Markets gets slimmer and slimmer every year.”

To help, the VOC tries to create buzz and has a lot on its agenda for 2018 as far as getting people to talk about Vidalia onions.

“There is a lot to be encouraged by and quite a bit of stuff we can do to create buzz for the name,” Stafford said. “We have such a wonderful name to start with but just building off that and continuing to educate the younger buyer audience will help. We have the number one onion out there and we’re real proud of that.”