April 19 is official pack date for Vidalia Onions
The Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC) set April 19 as the pack date for 2021. The organizations are also celebrating the 35th anniversary of legislation that helped to make Vidalia onions beloved by millions of fans across the country.
A rite of spring for its legends of devotees, the announcement of the pack date means shoppers will soon be able to purchase Vidalia onions, which are only available for a limited time each year.
The pack date is determined each year by an advisory panel comprised of Vidalia industry members, state agriculture scientists and the Department of Agriculture. Soil and weather conditions in South Georgia are taken into consideration to select the date to help ensure only the highest-quality onions end up on consumers’ plates.
First discovered in the 1930s, Vidalia onions quickly grew in popularity over the next few decades. The Vidalia Onion Act established that only sweet onions grown in 20 South Georgia counties from a distinctive Granex seed and packed and sold on or after the official pack date each year could be called Vidalia onions.
In 1989, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided federal protection to the onion and created the VOC to support marketing and research initiatives. In 1992, the state of Georgia became the official owner of the Vidalia onion trademark.
For the 2021 season, approximately 10,000 acres of Vidalia onions were planted, according to VOC Chairman Aries Haygood.
Grower of the Year: Tattnall County Farm Bureau member John Shuman, president and CEO of Shuman Farms, has been named the 2020 Grower of the Year by the Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC) in recognition of Shuman’s contributions to the industry for more than 25 years.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Buck Shuman, who began growing Vidalia onions in the 1980s, John Shuman took over his family’s farm in the early 1990s, rebuilding it from the ground up following the national farm crisis of the previous decade. Today Shuman Farms is one of the largest growers of Vidalia onions in North America.
A graduate of Georgia Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Shuman has served as VOC chairman, chairman of the board of the Southeast Produce Council and a member of the Georgia Ports Authority Board of Directors.
In addition to his business success, in 2002, Shuman founded Produce for Kids, now Healthy Family Project, which has raised more than $7 million to benefit children and families. Shuman Farms also provides annual donations to Feeding America and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
“In the last quarter century, John has played a leading role in building the Vidalia onion brand to become the country’s most iconic vegetable,” said Aries Haygood, VOC chairman. “But even more importantly, John and his family have devoted considerable time and energy giving back to the community.”
“I am honored and humbled to be recognized by the Vidalia onion industry to receive one of our highest awards,” said Shuman. “I have been fortunate to have had the support of my wife, Lana, as well as the advice and counsel from some of the most respected Vidalia onion growers in the state. As you know it takes a village to do what we do, so this award goes to everyone at Shuman Farms. I want to especially thank my brother Mark for his dedication and leadership.”
Onions in the Bluegrass: Vidalia onions are on the official menu for the 2021 Kentucky Derby and will be featured in several dishes served to patrons of the race, to be held May 1, according to The Shelby Report.
“After a year that has been challenging for all of us, we hope our first-ever partnership with the Kentucky Derby will serve as a tiny beacon of normal life by bringing together two of the country’s beloved ‘rites of spring,’” said Vidalia Onion Committee Chairman Aries Haygood. “We are honored to be part of the official menu of this year’s Derby.”
Vidalia onions will be featured in several dishes on the official Derby menu, including Chicken with Vidalia Onion and Mushroom Sauce and Vidalia Onion, Bourbon Sorghum Vinaigrette on a Black-Eyed Pea Salad.