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B & B Farms Named Growers of the Year

B & B Farms Named  Growers of the Year
GROWER OF THE YEAR – The Beasley family gathers in celebration of B & B Farms, which is owned and operated by Jamie Beasley and Johnny Beasley, was awarded the Grower of the Year Award at 2024 Vidalia Onion Awards.Photo by Makaylee Randolph
B & B Farms Named  Growers of the Year
GROWER OF THE YEAR – The Beasley family gathers in celebration of B & B Farms, which is owned and operated by Jamie Beasley and Johnny Beasley, was awarded the Grower of the Year Award at 2024 Vidalia Onion Awards.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

The Vidalia Onion Committee held their annual Vidalia Onion Awards on Saturday, February 10, during which they presented B & B Farms with the coveted Grower of the Year Award. B & B Farms is a farm owned by Johnny and Jamie Beasley, and operated in the Cedar Crossing area. Upon receiving the award, Jamie remained speechless in shock and awe of the honor, while Johnny turned to address continued from page

the crowd. “I appreciate what you’ve done, and if there’s ever been a man that deserves it, it’s Jamie Beasley. It’s just something that money can’t buy,” he remarked.

Fellow farmer Jason Herndon also commented on the award, as he shared that there was a strong bond between the Beasley and Herndon families. “That family means a lot to our family. They do great things in Cedar Crossing. They have done more for the Cedar Crossing and South Thompson community than anyone I know,” he said. “Jamie is one of my best friends, and I’m very proud of him for getting this.”

The award was presented by 2023 Grower of the Year Awardee Ben Hilliard and Vidalia Onion Committee Chairman Cliff Riner, who emphasized the importance of the award. “People that earn this award have really earned it – they earned it with a good season, a good yield, and a good crop. So this will be the second year that we’ve brought the finalists in – they had the highest paid assessments per acre. Then, we took it a step forward and let the industry – the registered growers – vote between the top candidates on who should win the overall award,” Riner explained.

He reminisced on the bitter cold weather of Christmas 2022, as he stated that to yield a good product while under turmoil was a huge success. “They had a lot against them. They were blessed by God to make it through those cold nights, then had to fight mildew. The people that are here tonight are our leaders,” Riner said.

Along with B & B Farms, fellow finalists Sikes Farms and L.G. Herndon Jr. Farms were also acknowledged for their success and hard work throughout the season.

Bland Farms Owner Delbert Bland was celebrated during the event, as his son Troy Bland presented him with an induction into the Vidalia Onion Hall of Fame.

Troy said that honoring his father was the highest honor he ever could have, as he has been greatly impacted by his relationship with Delbert. “I won the lottery when I was born to Delbert and Sandra Bland – being able to learn from my mom and dad, especially my dad, over the years has been incredible,” he told the crowd.

The son reminisced on his father’s first experience farming in 1982, when he grew 5 acres of produce and sold it to his cousin Charlie Winge, who encouraged Delbert to get into the onion business. “I think all of us are very grateful he did. I can sit here and speak all night of things my father has done for this industry,” Troy shared. “He’s the one that hired the private investigator to film the Texas onions being put into Vidalia bags, and that’s how we came to get the lawsuit so that we could get the district that we have now.”

According to Troy, a group of Vidalia Onion representatives went to Washington, D.C., after the lawsuit and got federal marketing for the Vidalia Onion, helping the name to travel across the country. “The notoriety of the Vidalia name has a direct correlation to Dad and the things he and others were doing through the 1980’s and 1990’s,” Troy emphasized.

He also recalled hard times with his father’s business, specifically, when his father had to file for Chapter 11. “Businesses do not restructure and come out of Chapter 11, but he did, and came out stronger with good people helping him along the way,” Troy said.

Yet, Troy told the audience that every challenge only made his father stronger, as he continued to excel in the business. “At the end of the day, he is one of the best salesmen I have ever met, and I am so proud and honored to be able to present him with this award.”

Upon receiving the honor, Delbert turned to address the crowd. ”It is truly an honor to be recognized by your peers. Most of you young bucks were not around when we started this deal, but I know how you feel because I remember how it felt when I first started,” he said to the attendees.

He continued, “I’ve been blessed. But when you look around and think about what you’re doing, it all goes back to your family. At the end of the day, it isn’t how many onions you sell or how much land you got – it’s who you love and who loves you. That’s all that really matters. I am blessed because of the ones that love me.”

Delbert shared memories of his business operations, including when he bought the phone number “1-800-VIDALIA” for $20,000. “We’re just like everybody else. We’re doing the best we can and enjoying life,” he summarized about his experiences.

At the end of his address, Delbert presented his award to his wife, Sandra, whom he thanked for her support throughout the years. Sandra then spoke to the crowd, saying, “All the wives and children in this place deserve an award too because the roads traveled are not easy for a Vidalia onion farmer, and it takes the family to make it all happen.”

Along with the Grower of the Year and a Hall of Fame induction, several other recognitions were given at the event.

Riner presented Daniel Jackson with a Service Excellence Award for his years of work in helping to improve the taste of Vidalia Onions. “This young man came here with red hair, sunscreen, and hard work ethics. Many years ago, as we sat around this time of year and talked about opening day and such, we always talked about bad flavor. That had to be changed and it started with hard work – this man put in the hard work,” he emphasized.

According to Riner, Jackson helped create a University of Georgia Crop Quality Lab for the Vidalia Onion in 2012, and has since taken thousands of soil samples to help improve the taste of the produce. In fact, Jackson will even soon complete his doctorate degree in Vidalia Onion Flavoring and Soil from the University of Georgia – the first doctorate for this subject in several years.

University of Georgia Vidalia Onion Vegetable Research Center Farm Manager Denny Thigpen was honored for his 38 years of service to the produce, as he will retire from the profession this year. “He’s been working there a really long time – in fact, he was working there before it was the Vidalia Onion Vegetable Research Center – back when it was still a part of the Georgia Forestry Commission farm. He’s finally decided to retire, unfortunately to us. His combined years to the state of Georgia — between UGA and Georgia Forestry Commission – total 38 years,” Area Onion Agent Chris Tyson explained.

He concluded, “To put it simply, he makes stuff happen every day. Whatever we need to get done, he makes it happen.”

Tyson also recognized Toombs County Extension Agent Jason Edenfield for his recent Onion Achievement Award from the Georgia Association of County Agricultural Agents, which he received in November.

This award honors extension agents who have made outstanding contributions to extension and research efforts in the industry. Nominations are made for the honor, and are then judged by a panel, composed of a University of Georgia Specialist, a Vidalia Onion Committee member, and another member of the industry.

Edenfield was chosen because of his collaborative work at the Vidalia Onion Vegetable Research Center, where he helps lead a team that plants, harvests, grades, and shares results of variety trials on onions. In addition to that, Edenfield has continuously worked on center rot research throughout his 15 years of experience, and is now also working to help reduce mildew on onions within the field.

Kate Kennedy was awarded the Courtney Wilkes Memorial Ag Scholarship, which is given annually in memory of a young girl who impacted the farming community greatly before her tragic death.

This scholarship marked the 13th time the award has been given, which presenter Jason Herndon commented on. “I cannot believe that it has been 13 years. What a way to bless this family and bless our community. The Courtney Wilkes that I know grew up a stone’s throw from my front office door. She had a love for being outdoors on her family’s farm,” he recalled.

Like Wilkes, Kennedy also has a passion for agriculture, as she grew up in a farming family and was a member of the Tattnall County 4-H program, where she participated in showing livestock. She is the daughter of Michael and Carrie Ann Kennedy, and was the 2023 Robert Toombs Christian Academy Valedictorian. Currently, Kennedy is attending Clemson University, where she maintains a 4.0 GPA and is a member of the Tiger Marching Band. She is pursing a degree in Agricultural Mechanization and Business, and a minor in Music.

Vidalia Onion Committee Vice Chairman Omar Cruz also acknowledged several members of the Vidalia Onion farming community who recently received accolades for their work. They included: John Shuman – American Vegetable Grower Achievement Award; Cliff Riner and Troy Bland – 40 Under 40 Vegetable Growers Nominees; and Landon Cowart – Central Region Junior Director for the Georgia Young Farmers Association.

The night concluded with fellowship and music, as the farmers celebrated a successful year and anticipation for another successful season.

38 YEARS OF SERVICE – University of Georgia Vidalia Onion Vegetable Research Center Farm Manager Denny Thigpen (left) was recognized by Chris Tyson (right) for his 38 years of service to the state.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

HONORING HIS FATHER – Troy Bland (left) presents his father Delbert Bland (right) with the 2024 Vidalia Onion Committee Hall of Fame induction.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

RED HAIR, SUNSCREEN, & A HARD WORK ETHIC – Vidalia Onion Committee Chairman Cliff Riner (left) stated that Daniel Jackson (right) had come to the area with red hair, suncreen, and a hard work ethic, which had greatly impacted and improved the flavor of Vidalia Onions.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

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