This is Delbert Bland’s favorite time of year. Though the owner of Bland Farms LLC has built the Glennville, GA, operation into one of the nation’s larger providers of sweet onions, the company was built on the name and fame of the Vidalia onion.
Harvest began in mid-April and “We feel pretty good about it right now,” Bland said. “The crop is beautiful at this time and our size is running a little to the larger side. That will change as you go from field to field and from different environments you’ll get different ratios, but it works out usually. It is a very sellable crop of onions, the quality seems to be very good and I’ve heard nothing but quality comments. And we’ve had excellent shipping opportunities so far.”
And while Bland grows onions in various parts of the United States. as well as Central America and South America, the Vidalia deal always hits close to home — in more ways than one.
Bland’s son, Troy Bland, was recently promoted to oversee the company’s operations as director of quality control.
“My son came to me the other night and said, ‘Daddy, I know what you’ve always talked about now. It ain’t about the money, it ain’t about what the profit is. It’s really about the excitement of making something happen and making it all work and making it click like it should,’ “ Delbert Bland said. “We do this because we really enjoy it and we love working with it and the excitement of the Vidalia deal is what makes you feel that way.”
Following in the footsteps of his farmer father, Delbert Bland planted his first Vidalia onions more than 30 years ago. He is thrilled every spring to see that “This Vidalia onion, it still gets people really excited when it gets in the stores. It’s amazing how many people look forward to having this onion every spring. I think it represents something to them, especially after they’ve been cooped up all winter. Everybody loves spring and that’s especially true after the winter a lot of folks just went through.”
That excitement continues to drive demand for Vidalia onions upward — and the success of the Vidalia has in turn propelled the entire sweet onion category. Many consumers have replaced yellow onions with sweets for everyday purposes.
“The numbers show that,” Bland said. “The statistics that you look at across the country show the yellow onion category is more flatlining and the sweet onion category keeps growing and expanding rapidly. I feel like not only do we have a lot of demand now, we’ll have a lot of demand for the future because it continues to grow every year.
“It is a fun crop because there’s so much excitement involved in it. The industry’s really grown, demand is extremely good, and what’s good about our demand is it’s not coming from new business, it’s coming from existing customers who are doing more volume per store and that’s what excites us,” said Bland.