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Vidalia onions are a sweet deal for Georgia

Well, I am going to have to do it again. Upset some people, I mean. But I can’t help it. It has to be done. I must once again extol the virtues of the Great State of Georgia and why it is Number One while the other 49 fight for sloppy seconds.

Last time I did this was in response to some idiotic survey that claimed we were the 25th worst state to live in. I took great umbrage at the survey results which included such key rankings as how many bartenders do we have.

A number of readers were not happy with me. They said I should not be talking about what a wonderful place Georgia is to live because it will just encourage a bunch of loud-talking Yankees to leave where it snows ten months a year and all their buildings are rusted and move here so they can make fun of how we talk. They think there are enough of them here already without me encouraging more to come.

I also heard from a small minority that doesn’t care much for this sacred soil. One said we have too many Republicans. Another thought our mornings were too cold. Another didn’t like our “corrupt football coaches” and sunrises over St. Simons Island. As a public service for the dissidents, here is the Delta Air Lines reservations number:1-888-220-4974. Delta is ready when you are. Fly, fly away.

For the rest of us, it is time to focus on what makes this a unique and hallowed place to live besides being the birthplace of Ray Charles Robinson, of Albany, Georgia. It is the Vidalia onion. No other state – none, nil, nada – has the ability to grow the sweet Vidalia.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Vidalia Onion Committee have announced April 12 as the official pack date for the 2022 Vidalia onion season. The pack date is determined by growing season soil and weather conditions to ensure the highest quality Vidalia onions, according to experts. To which I say, has there ever been a Vidalia onion that wasn’t of the highest quality? If so, I must have missed it.

For those of you who may not understand the significance of the Vidalia onion, it is wonderfully sweettasting. Yes, a sweet onion. You can eat it like an apple if you wish. And it is grown only in Georgia on some 10,000 acres in all or portions of 13 counties, including, of course, Toombs County, whose county seat is Vidalia.

I have said often that God likes Georgia a bunch. That is how the Vidalia onion came to be. During the Great Depression, farmers in the area were looking for a new cash crop. They had grown everything from corn to cotton in Georgia’s sandy soil and in order to try and make some money, decided to try onions. It turns out that this particular soil had a low amount of sulfur which gave the onions a curiously sweet taste. Thus was born the Vidalia onion. Can I get an amen?

Now, Vidalia onions are sold in all 50 states and much of Canada. The Vidalia Onion Council tells me they aren’t sure exactly how many onions will be shipped out this year, but last year it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 232 million pounds. That’s a big neighborhood. Yet, despite the numbers, Vidalias sell out every year before Labor Day.

And don’t mess with Vidalia onions. It is the official vegetable of our state. And it is trademarked. Federal Marketing Order No. 955, established in 1989, helps reinforce Georgia state laws, and in 1992, the state of Georgia was identified as the owner of the Vidalia onion trademark.

You can try to grow a sweet onion elsewhere, (good luck with that!) but you cannot call it a “Vidalia,” unless it was grown in the designated area of Georgia. If you try to foist off a substitute wherever you are, you will get a visit from the Georgia Department of Agriculture. We take our onions seriously.

So, now you see why Georgia is Number One. We may not have enough bartenders to satisfy some marketing firm that wouldn’t know a horse fly from a pop fly, but what we do have are majestic mountains to the north, silver beaches to the south, the oldest state-chartered university in the nation, “Georgia on my Mind” as our state song and – yes – those sweet Vidalia onions. Truly, we are blessed.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at [email protected]; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ dickyarb

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