GLENNVILLE, Ga. — The 2012 Vidalia Onion Grower of the Year was so sure he wasn’t in the running for the honor that he didn’t register to go to the annual awards banquet.
“Wendy (Brannen) called me just as I was headed out of town on a church trip and told me I had to come to the banquet this year,” said Danny Ray president and co-owner of Ray Farms Inc. “When she told me why, I couldn’t believe it.”
Each year, the Vidalia Onion Committee, Vidalia, Ga., selects a grower of the year to recognize overall achievement and success within the Vidalia onion community.
Federal and state laws restrict the use of the name Vidalia to onions grown in 13 Georgia counties — including Tattnail County, home to Ray Farms — and portions of seven other Georgia counties.
Brannen, executive director of the committee, said Ray was one of the most humble honorees selected since she started with the committee in 2005.
The awards committee reviews growers’ emphasis on quality and their compliance with the federal marketing order governing Vidalia onion production.
In addition to having an upstanding operation, the grower of the year must also work to enhance and support brand recognition for Vidalia onions in general, in addition to his or her own private labels.
In their remarks about Ray Farms and its president, the awards committee members noted Ray’s previous service on the onion committee and his family’s commitment since Ray’s parents, Avon and Annette Ray, founded the farm in the early 1950s.
Ray said he has about 350 acres of Vidalias planted for the 2013 season.
He credits his younger brother Gary with keeping things on track in the fields.
Ray said Patsy, his wife of 36 years, keeps the Ray Farms office running smoothly with the help of their daughter Whitney, who has been working at the farm office for four years.
Ray Farms also produces cotton, corn, peanuts, watermelons, peas and beans, but Ray said his main crop is Vidalia onions.
During packing season the entire Ray clan helps out in the pack shed.
When he’s not occupied with his crops, Ray usually works with his church, the Watermelon Creek Baptist Church in Glennville. In late March he was preparing for one last trip with a church group before the Vidalia onion harvest started.