We just got back from our weekend trip to Vidalia, GA and I’ve got LOT of unpacking to do, literally and figuratively. My overnight bag is on the floor and my goodie bag from the good folks at the Vidalia Onion Committee is on my kitchen counter along with a ten-pound bag of sweet Vidalia onions. The memory card of my camera is completely full of pictures and videos that I need to flip through to show you all I learned. I have so much to share with you that I’m going to have to split this up between two, maybe three posts.I would like to thank the Vidalia Onion Committee for the incredibly gracious hospitality they extended to my family and myself.
Vidalia onions are a seasonal crop prized for their sweetness. The high water content and low sulfur are keys to growing an onion so sweet you can eat out of hand.
At 9:30 Saturday morning my family and I, along with chef James Liles of Atlanta’s Publik Draft House and his family piled into a passenger van and rode out to M & T Farms for a tour of the facility. Heavy rains kept us from going out into the onion fields but we did get a thorough tour of packing facility where we were greeted by general manager Aries Haygood.
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Aries married into the Vidalia onion business and is a fantastic representative for the company. You can hear the pride in his voice as he discusses the efforts taken to ensure quality produce gest to market. The growing process is incredibly labor-intensive with much of the planting, harvesting, and packing process done by hand. To fulfill the need for workers, growers sometimes use the H-2A program which allows U.S. employers or to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to fill temporary agricultural jobs.
The Vidalia Onion Committee works closely with The University of Georgia to study seed, soil, fertilizer, and everything in between to grow onions fit to be called Vidalia. Cliff Riner, the Vidalia onion agent from the University of Georgia works in the Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center which has acres of land dedicated to studying Vidalias. The research center gets assistance from inmates at a local prison who help record data, plant, and harvest. Free inmate labor is a controversial subject with many people wondering if the skills the inmates learn will help them secure a job upon release from prison. If the inmates gain marketable skills during their time in the program and acquire employment after leaving prison then I can see the benefit of using free inmate labor.
Some of the studies done focus on onion fertility, nutrients in onion production, onion storage studies, thrips (insects that transmit disease), botrytis neck rot… so many things! There are lot of challenges to getting produce to market. Many of you will be happy to know there are no GMOs involved in the process. The Vidalia onion growing area is limited so part of the challenge is to increase the production of the onions as demand increases.
And then there was lunch! We were treated to some god down-home cooking prepared by Memory Lane Catering and Cakes. Fried chicken, sweet potato biscuits, green beans cooked Vidalia onions and bacon, zucchini, and yellow squash sauteed with Vidalia onions. Red velvet cake, pecan pie, sweet tea and so much more. It was delicious!
We headed back to our hotel after lunch and we were all pretty worn out and in need of naps but the Blue Angels had other plans for the afternoon. Let me tell you if you don’t know the Blue Angels are going to be flying over your hotel and you snuggle into our comfy bed for nap time you will nearly break your neck as you leap from the sheets fearing an earthquake has struck. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see them from our hotel room window but we did see them the next day. They put on an incredible show.
After nap time we headed out to see the Country Music Band “Lonestar” in concert but a severe thunderstorm shut the showdown before the headliners could take the stage. Lucky for us we got a few treats and made a few new friends before the storm.
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And that’s the end of day one. The next day was equally full of good things
Amber C.May 4, 2015 at 7:00 pm (8 years ago)
OMG that is so crazy! I’ve never seen anyone eat an onion alone before! I Will have to check them out!Reply
Melinda@LookWhatMomFound...andDadtooMay 4, 2015 at 2:00 pm (8 years ago)
I love onions and Vidalias are my favorites. I wouldn’t chomp into one though. I have 4 at home waiting for a good recipe to cross my path.Reply
ToniaMay 4, 2015 at 11:55 am (8 years ago)
I love onions on pizza. I’m picky, but that’s like a treat to me.Reply
Demetra OvertonMay 4, 2015 at 1:20 pm (8 years ago)
My husband’s favorite pizza topping is onions and ground beef, so I totally get where you’re coming from. Tastes pretty good!
ChristieMay 4, 2015 at 1:00 am (8 years ago)
That’s my favorite onion to use in cooking! How fun to go behind the scenes!Reply
Beth@FrugalFroggieMay 4, 2015 at 12:15 am (8 years ago)
We just back from our weekend vacay. Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip.Reply
ShellMay 3, 2015 at 2:38 pm (8 years ago)
Mmm, vidalia onions are so good! That lunch looks incredible!Reply
Anjanette @MommaYoungMay 1, 2015 at 10:16 pm (8 years ago)
Ok Number One – That Pecan Pie, drool. I love hearing all that goes into a large farm and the family traditions involved. Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us.Reply
Rachelle JMay 1, 2015 at 9:09 pm (8 years ago)
I love those onions! They are so yummy!Reply
TraceyMay 1, 2015 at 8:03 pm (8 years ago)
Now that is a lot of onions! I love all the recipe ideas you shared though.Reply
Ora Lee GurrMay 1, 2015 at 7:18 pm (8 years ago)
Your hubby is a good sport to take his picture with Yumion. The planning and events that taught the incredible difference of Vidalia onions is impressive. I’m glad you were treated right and had so much fun, in addition to seeing the Blue Angels the following day.Reply
Demetra OvertonMay 4, 2015 at 1:22 pm (8 years ago)
He really is a good sport he loved taking pics with Yumion. The kids needed a bit more encouragement. LOL!
KiwiMay 1, 2015 at 6:46 pm (8 years ago)
Wow what a recap and thats a lot of onions! I love this and thanks for your beautiful recap of everything!Reply
RoseyMay 1, 2015 at 5:13 pm (8 years ago)
That does look tasty good, full of fun dishes. Sorry you didn’t get out in the field, but I bet the tour was great.Reply
Chrystal @ YUM eatingMay 1, 2015 at 4:51 pm (8 years ago)
What a fun place to visit. Pecan pie is one of my favorites. Oh it looks so wonderful!Reply
CrystalMay 1, 2015 at 4:18 am (8 years ago)
I had no clue how much work went into producing onions. It’s nice to see where our food comes from and realize what it takes to get it on our tables.Reply
VeronicaMay 1, 2015 at 4:06 am (8 years ago)
Lots of onions. I usually don’t pay attention to the brand but I will nowReply
ChrysaMay 1, 2015 at 2:28 am (8 years ago)
What an awesome place to visit. I LOVE Vidalia onions and would love to see where they actually come from!Reply
HopscotchNJellybeansMay 1, 2015 at 2:25 am (8 years ago)
I love onions. I love the spread that you did. I am so hungry nowReply
PamMay 1, 2015 at 12:59 am (8 years ago)
Vidalia onions are the best onions! Since I live in Georgia, I know all about how the right onion can make or break some of our Southern dishes!Reply
JeanineMay 1, 2015 at 12:41 am (8 years ago)
Sounds like a fabulous day! That food looks incredible too! What an experience!Reply
Stacie @ Divine LifestyleApril 30, 2015 at 7:14 pm (8 years ago)
Thanks so much for this article. I live in Georgia, the land of Vidalias, but I’ve never really thought about how they get in my pot!Reply
Robin (Masshole Mommy)April 30, 2015 at 5:29 pm (8 years ago)
Wow, it sounds like you had an amazing day! And you ate well, too 😉Reply