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VOC creating excitement for Vidalia season

The Vidalia Onion Committee is responsible for promoting and overseeing the Vidalia onion industry and doing its best to help farmers and getting the word out about what the latest buzz is.

As chairman of the VOC, Troy Bland is responsible for helping the organization fulfill its mission and he keeps a watchful eye on all things happening in the industry.

Vidalia-beauty-14-copy “As is any year, the message we want to convey is we are going to have a strong Vidalia market with plenty of volume to sell,” Bland said. “We have faced some weather events—such as the cold we experienced in January with snow on the ground for three days, which really knocked the whole crop back as far as timing—but it’s more about where we are now vs. where we were in the past.”

Bob Stafford, interim executive director of the VOC, agreed that the onions are growing at a speed that he is very comfortable with.

“I’m a firm believer that some of the best crops are those years that they face a little adversity,” he said. “This gives a chance for the root systems to grow a little stronger. I think last year, the cold may have hurt us more.”

Tori McKenney, marketing manager for the VOC, noted the organization launched its new logo at the PMA conference in October, reflecting the artisanal approach to growing Vidalia onions that farmers have perfected over time.

“This year, we are looking to do a retail education for grocers to better be able to market the onions and to advertise properly and understand the quality of the product,” she said. “We also created a new story video, which will be coming out on social this season. We want to not only get onions in the hands of retailers, but consumers.”

Research has proven to VOC that Vidalia onions are still one of the most recognizable produce out there, which is why it plans to play off the pack date to create the buzz that they are coming.

“We have such a great product and there is an excitement about them. It’s one of the few commodities people ask a produce buyer when they are coming in,” McKenney said. “It’s still a special niche that allows it to have a great deal of groundswell before it hits the shelves. I think anything that a retail customer can do to capitalize on that helps them move more onions.”

In February, the VOC presented agronomist Omar Cruz of Bland Farms with its 2018 Grower of the Year award. Additionally, R.T. Stanley, a long-time industry icon, was inducted into the Vidalia Onion Hall of Fame during the VOC’s 2018 awards banquet.

Cruz has been farming with Bland Farms in Tattnall County since 2005 after earning his agronomy degree from the University of Havana in La Habana, Cuba. He’s known in the industry for sharing information with Vidalia onion growers in the surrounding counties and has hosted numerous onion trials that have yielded valuable information to benefit the Vidalia industry.

Stanley began in the industry in 1964 as a sharecropper and 10 years later established Stanley Farms with his father. Stanley Farms started farming Vidalia onions in the late ’70s with their first five acres. This small acreage later grew into more than a thousand acres.

“Our congratulations to Omar and R.T. on being selected to receive our industry’s top honors,” Stafford said. “We enjoyed one of our strongest seasons in 2017, and we are looking forward to a good harvest this year.”