For the next six weeks there will be a lot of tired people in Vidalia, GA — the famous sweet onion’s official season got underway at 8 a.m. Friday, setting off what promises to be a month of 18-hour days getting a very good crop in from the fields.
“It’s a normal-sized crop and that’s just what we need,” said Bob Stafford, executive director of the Vidalia Onion Committee. “The quality is excellent from the start and we believe we are bringing a great onion to consumers this spring.”
A bitter cold January took a bite out of the crop that likely won’t reveal itself until the second half of the season, but any losses are expected to be minimal. At the moment, there are no pest or disease pressures – warm weather after the early cold snap has the deal coming off just a little on the early side of the normal window. Some growers initially thought harvest would not begin until the first week of May.
Vidalia onions roll down the line at Generation Farms Thursday morning ready to be packed and shipped at 8 a.m. Friday for the official start of the season/ABOVE: Bins of onions in the warehouse as seen from the top of the stack (Photos by Chip Carter)
“We’re going to have a good start, we’re going to have some good quality onions,” says Stafford. “The cold got a few of the weak ones to start with but we have an ample supply. It might not be a bumper crop – we don’t know yet – but it might be.”
Regardless, Stafford says there will be “good quality for sure, we know that, and we’ll have a good marketable supply, that’s for sure. The tops are real green and pretty and the quality looks good so far. The weather’s cooperating with us now so we’re ready — they started digging onions the 8th through the 10th and we started packing and shipping at 8 a.m. on the 20th.”
Vidalia onions are a registered trademark of the state of Georgia and the 80 registered growers are wasting no time getting the new crop to market.
“Stores will be full this weekend within the driving area – they can kick out a load in an hour and a half or less than that, so there will be a lot of onions on the road,” Stafford said.
Said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, “We celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Vidalia onion trademark last year, and are looking forward to another bountiful crop as we kick off the next quarter century of delivering the highest quality Vidalia onions to consumers across the country.”
In 2017, Georgia grew over 11,000 acres of Vidalia onions with a value of more than $120 million.
Source: Southeast Produce Weekly