The Georgia Department of Agriculture has set April 25 as the official pack date for Vidalia onions. The late-April date was recommended to the Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture during three separate grower meetings in the 20-county Vidalia onion growing region.
“The worst thing we can do is start too early,” said Brett McLain of McLain Farms and chairman of the advisory panel. “In the past we’ve done just that and have shipped immature onions and it has just about ruined our industry. That is what we have been working with the Commissioner to avoid, and I think this date will help us accomplish that.”
Vidalia onions cannot be packed or sold prior to April 25 as established by the rules of the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The Georgia state legislature in 1986 entrusted the GDA with the ownership of the Vidalia onion certification mark, delegating the commissioner to protect the integrity of the mark and ensure consumers receive only the highest quality sweet Vidalia onions.
“I know that every family farmer in Georgia that grows Vidalia onions wants to put the best product on the market every day,” said Commissioner Gary Black. “It’s not just about being first to market with something; it’s about going to market on the first day with the best.”
Vidalia onions are unique to Georgia and may only be grown in parts of a 20-county area in the southeastern part of the state. The onions are prized for their sweetness and mild flavor and can be used raw or cooked.
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Georgia farmers harvested 268 million pounds of Vidalia onions from 11,200 acres in 2015. Value of production for last year’s crop exceeded 120 million.