Courtesy Vidalia Onion CommitteeRetired Vidalia onion grower-shipper Buck Shuman (left) accepts a plaque signifying his induction into the Vidalia Hall of Fame from his son, John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce Inc., Reidsville, Ga.REIDSVILLE, Ga. — “Mr. Buck” isn’t just a man who used to grow Vidalia onions. The moniker is also one of the certified varieties of trademarked Vidalia onions.
The Mr. Buck variety is just one of the reasons Buck Shuman was selected as a Hall of Fame inductee by the Vidalia Onion Committee’s awards committee earlier this year. One of Buck’s sons, John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce Inc., said presenting his father with the Hall of Fame plaque was a high point of his life.
John and his brother, Mark Shuman, general manager of Shuman Produce, today run the farm and marketing operation for which their father literally planted the seeds decades ago.
Buck Shuman helped develop Vidalia onion seed varieties and introduced custom fertilizer mixes to the industry via Shuman Fertilizer Inc. long before the onions got their trademark.
The Vidalia Onion Committee credits him with helping develop sweeter Vidalias through his work.
In 1994, when Buck was in his early 60s, he began working with D. Palmer Seed Co. as the Vidalia onion seed representative. He continues in that position today. Among the seed varieties he has helped develop are the Miss Megan, named after his granddaughter, and the Sapelo, named after one of his favorite fishing rivers.
Records from the Vidalia Onion Committee show that the Sapelo variety is one of the widest planted and is considered a cornerstone in the industry.
John and Mark recall their dad becoming known as the “Crop Doctor,” which helped encourage both of them to pursue futures in agriculture. Unfortunately, his business did not survive for them to inherit.
“Farming economics were very difficult in the 1980s, and after a couple of bad growing seasons in the late ’80s and early ’90s, he was forced out of the business he loved,” John said.
John said when he and Mark got out of college, the family business was gone, but they were ready to grow and sell.
“I got Grandma to go to the bank with me, and she co-signed a note for $15,000,” John said.
In the early 1990s, $15,000 went a lot further than it does today, Mark said. It was enough to begin Shuman Produce Inc.
Buck Shuman’s legacy grew quickly, and today the operation markets about 1,800 acres of Vidalia onions. Some of the crop is grown by the Shumans, and the rest comes from contract growers with whom they’ve been working for two decades.