Vidalia Onion Harvest Underway

Lyons, GA – While Vidalia onions went into the ground just 5 months ago, it’s probably seemed like an eternity to producers as the growing season saw its fair share of obstacles. And that’s after Hurricane Irma rolled through South Georgia while they were getting their seed beds ready.

“After that, we did okay as far as getting everything planted,” says UGA Area Onion Agent, Cliff Riner. “But, then the first week of January, where we had about 5 inches of snow here and the snow didn’t really hurt us as much as that whole week it was 40 degrees as a high. So, the majority of the time, that full week, we were in the 20s at night and the 40s during the day.”

Despite all the challenges, there will still be plenty of delicious sweet onions on the shelves.

“We’ve actually had snow,” says Delbert Bland, President of Bland Farms. “We’ve had cold weather. We’ve had everything that you could imagine this year. But believe it or not, these onions are pretty tough. They made it through it all and we are pretty excited about this crop. We’ve been shipping out about a week and they look excellent. And we shouldn’t have any problem. We’ve already done over 200 loads, so we’re letting them roll.”

That’s just the beginning of a busy harvesting season that will see more than 2 million boxes of onions ship out of the Bland Farms processing facility. While the growing conditions did have some effect on this year’s quantity, the quality will remain the same.

“The yields have been a little off in terms of total weight per acre,” says Riner. “However, the quality has been pretty good. We have had some quality issues on the first side on some onions, but others have made up for that. We see a tighter onion, it’s firmer, it might be a little smaller but he flavor is there.”

This year, you should be on the lookout for bags of the smaller onions called Lil’ O’s, which have the same big flavor in a smaller package.

“See, when you do onions in the field, you’ll have anywhere from a 4″ onion down to a 1″ onion. So, you get all different sizes all the time. The smaller onion, that we have not marketed in the past, it’s the smaller onions that taste just as sweet and is just as good a quality but there’s not as much size on them. But they’re perfect for putting in stews and different areas that you can use them in,” says Bland.

So far, there has been a large demand for this product, which means consumers can expect to see them in their stores soon.

“What we would do with them is put then in a bag and just sell them bulk as peewees and stuff like that,” says Bland. “But there really wasn’t a market for them. They were real cheap. But marketing is all about how someone perceives the product and you got to make them want it. And that’s what we’re doing here.”

So, no matter the size of the onion, consumers can expect the same great taste year after year thanks to the time, effort, and money these producers put into growing this crop.

“You know, they’ve invested a lot in the research center as well as some of the other trials we do with the University of Georgia and that’s really paid off,” says Riner. “More and more producers are producing a sweeter and sweeter onion.”

By: Damon Jones