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Experience, partnerships, encouragement drive G&R Farms

G&R Farms is an experienced, year-round supplier of sweet onions.

“To be a success in this segment one needs to be savvy, very diversified, very cash flow flexible, and one must be able to adjust quickly to market and weather problems thrown at you,” said Walt Dasher, co-owner of G&R Farms, based in Glennville, GA. “My family has been in the Vidalia business longer than anyone else in the industry. I like to say we are like the Farmers Insurance commercial, ‘we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.’”

With that experience, Dasher tries to teach others how to best read the market and adapt to the weather patterns.

IMG 6171G&R Farms is in the process of purchasing another packing facility that has 200,000 bushels of storage and a complete packing line.“Too many Vidalia growers have gotten into the deal the wrong way,” he said. “I have had growers ask me my thoughts about them growing 250 acres and my question is always the same, ‘do you have the entire 250 acres sold?’ If not you do not need to plant any more than you can sell. Supply and demand is always right no matter what.”

He also tries to encourage growers to be smart about how fast they grow their business, warning that too fast can be often be just as bad as no growth at all.  

G&R Farms had what Dasher described as a “decent year” in 2017, although weather and input cost continue to be major challenges facing all growers.

“Increased cost and weather-related issues have cut deep into all growers’ profitability and cash flow over the past several years,” he said. “Considering what our crop has been through during 2018, it actually looks very good for the most part. We have some issues with our later-planted crop due to the severe weather in January, but everyone is dealing with the same issues.”

Dasher subscribes to his “don’t grow too fast” philosophy with everything at G&R Farms, which is why he likes to plan out the program for about 10 years.

“For us, things have to make sense both financially and personal-wise before we do anything in a major way,” he said. “We are spreading our Vidalia growing region out a lot more to hedge against weather-related issues and for rotation purposes. We are partnering with some outstanding growers to help manage our land in outlying regions of our packing shed. We are actually helping each other by swapping land with each other for rotation purposes and then helping each other grow each other’s crops on the land.”

The company has recently developed a watermelon partnership with the Giumarra Companies and is seeing a lot of opportunities with other products that Giumarra is developing within the Southeast. 

“We are very excited about what our future holds with the Giumarra Companies,” Dasher said. 

G&R Farms has also added a new staff member — Mario Arias, South American operations manager for its Peru program.

“Mario has tons of experience with logistics in and out of Peru and knows the onion program very, very well so he brings a lot of knowledge and experience to our operation,” Dasher said. “Having Mario day-to-day in Peru will greatly improve our efficiency and quality, which is our primary focus and vision.”

The company is also in the process of purchasing another packing facility. The facility has 200,000 bushels of storage and a complete packing line in full operation. This will provide more options to hedge against issues at any one given location, according to Dasher.

“We continue to look and add excellent staff members and will be adding a key management position in the near future,” Dasher said. “I always like to use the quote by Jack Welch: ‘when you put the right people on the bus it will go in the right direction, when you have the wrong people on the bus, it will definitely go into the ditch.’ Jack was of course the brainchild behind GE and I love reading his material.”

Dasher noted G&R is also excited about what is happening with its GAF/FFA scholarship program for future farming kids. 

“I can’t describe how humbled I am by the amount of support that has jumped on board with this program in the past two years, but the amount of interest coming in the future is even more exciting,” he said. “This isn’t about G&R Farms or Vidalia onions, it’s about helping solve a coming crisis that will affect every single American. It is all about supporting the young American farmer. I would like to deeply thank everyone that has helped support this program.”