Vidalia industry celebrates 20 years and honors pioneers

02/10/2010 01:51:42 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

The Vidalia onion industry honored grower Terry Gerrald and Vidalia Onion Business Council manager Bob Stafford recently, and celebrated the 20th anniversary of the marketing order for Georgia’s signature vegetable.


Courtesy Vidalia Onion Committee

R.E. Hendrix (right), president of Hendrix Produce Inc., Metter, Ga., presents Terry Gerrald, president of Gerrald's Vidalia Sweet Onions Inc., Statesboro, Ga., with the Vidalia Onion Committee's Grower of Year award during the industry's recent awards banquet.


Gerrald, president of Gerrald's Vidalia Sweet Onions Inc., Statesboro, Ga., was named 2009 Grower of the Year at the committee’s annual awards banquet Feb. 6 in Vidalia.

Stafford and grower-processor pioneers brothers Danny New and David New joined the Vidalia Onion Hall of Fame.

Gerrald was cited for the many trips he and other growers made to Atlanta during the 1980s to persuade state lawmakers to provide a legal definition for the Vidalia onion and its growing region.

Georgia legislators passed legislation in 1986 and the U.S. Department of Agriculture enacted the federal marketing order in 1989.


Stafford


“Their efforts were significant in deterring a mounting number of bootleggers who had begun bagging and selling counterfeit onions under the ‘Vidalia’ name,” Wendy Brannen, the committee’s executive director, said in a news release. “He (Gerrald) has won the respect of his fellow onion growers through his candor, dedication to the industry (and) good farming.”

Brannen said Gerrald built one of the first enclosed packing sheds, installed the industry’s first modern drying rooms and was the first to transition to all-plastic harvest and storage bins.

Stafford has worked for agriculture departments in seven mostly states, and was recognized for his work representing Vidalia growers and packers in political and other matters and for serving as an industry liaison to the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Stafford is a member of the Vidalia Onion Advisory Board, which recommends an official date to open the season to the state’s commissioner of agriculture.


Courtesy Vidalia Onion Committee

Grower-processor pioneers brothers David New (left) and Danny New were inducted into the Vidalia onion industry’s Hall of Fame.


The New brothers, who left the business years ago, aggressively marketed Vidalia onions during the early 1970s when marketing of the Vidalia brand was called confusingly fragmented.

The two pioneered processing Vidalias into sauces and relishes, increased the marketing of Vidalia onions and were the early industry’s largest grower-shipper.

The Vidalia industry also honored Doris Jamieson, a marketing specialist with the USDA’s Southeast Marketing field office, for her dedication as the Vidalia committee’s USDA field representative.



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