Vidalia, GA (February 6, 2017)—The Vidalia® Onion Committee (VOC) hosted its annual awards banquet on February 4 at the Vidalia Community Center  in Vidalia, Georgia.  Mr. Aries Haygood from M & T Farms was named grower of the year and Dr. Ronald Gitaitis of the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences was inducted to the Hall of Fame.  U.S. Congressman Rick Allen also spoke at the event.

Each year, the Vidalia Onion Committee selects a grower or overall farm of the year to recognize overall achievement and success as a producer of Vidalia Onions with an emphasis on quality production and compliance with the Marketing Order. The farm must meet the following requirements:

  1. Registered Vidalia® onion grower
  2. Has submitted reports and payments in a timely manner
  3. Has had no or few complaints to the Committee Office
  4. Conforms to the standards set forth in the Order
  5. Enhances and supports brand recognition

The 2016 Grower of the Year was awarded to Mr. Aries Haygood from M & T Farms.  A family owned and operated business, M & T Farms has been in business for almost 30 years and now averages 400 acres of Vidalia Onions each year.   Aries manages the farm for his father in law, Terry Collins who was named grower of the year in 2002.

Dr. Ronald Gitaitis is the Plant Pathologist at the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences located on the Tifton campus.  Gitaitis has spent his career researching bacterial diseases on Vidalia onions.  He has published numerous reports and journal articles.  He has mentored other scientist at UGA and other institutions throughout his career.  Many of his discoveries have shaped the production practices in the Vidalia region.  He was the first scientist to discover three species of bacterium of onion in the world.  He has provided thirty-seven years of service to the University of Georgia and has announced he will be retiring in June of 2017.

The awards were presented by Vidalia Onion Committee Director Susan A. Waters who stated,    “It was a great honor to present the Grower of the Year Award to Aries Haygood who has served as Vice Chair and Chairman of the Committee.  We also wanted to recognize Dr. Gitaitis’ contribution to the Vidalia industry especially since the University of Georgia has played a key role in providing critical crop research and helping the industry by providing unbiased scientific data to the growers.”

About the Vidalia® Onion Committee

Because Vidalia® onions are sweetly unique, farmers united to seek legal protection for their crop and its name. Federal Marketing Order No. 955 was established in 1989, to stipulate where the crop can be grown and help with research and promotion of Vidalia® onions.  The Vidalia® Onion Committee administers FMO No. 955 and authorizes production research, marketing research and development and marketing promotion programs. This federal program along with Georgia state laws that protect the Vidalia® trademark have provided a legal framework for the industry. So, you can try to grow a sweet onion elsewhere, but you cannot call it a “Vidalia®,” unless it is from Georgia!

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