Sweet Onion Pioneer R.T. Stanley, Jr. Enters Vidalia Onion Hall Of Fame
by Doug Ohlemeier, PerishableNews.com
Posted: 2018-02-13 09:13:18 EST

VIDALIA, GA – Recognized for helping start Georgia’s famous sweet onion deal, Vidalia onion industry pioneer R.T. Stanley, Jr. has been inducted into the Vidalia Onion Hall of Fame.   

During the Feb. 10 Vidalia Onion Banquet and Awards Ceremony, the industry also recognized Omar Cruz, the longtime agronomist and director of production for Bland Farms LLC, headquartered in Glennville, GA, by naming him Grower of the Year.

Stanley, Jr., the retired president of Vidalia, GA-based Stanley Farms, was born in 1945. He began farming as a sharecropper in 1964. Acquiring his own land, in 1975, Stanley’s farm began growing five acres of Vidalias. In 2016 Stanley Farms merged with Lake Park, GA’s Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., to form Generation Farms, one of the deal’s largest grower-shippers.

Stanley, Jr. was lauded for helping form the Vidalia Onion Committee, which administers the federal marketing order. In 1988, Stanley, Jr. was one of a small group of growers who traveled to Washington, DC, to persuade the U.S. Department of Agriculture to form the committee. “It took a lot of legwork,” says Bob Stafford, committee manager. “In working with R.T., he was always available and would come to do his part.”

Vince Stanley, one of R.T. Stanley, Jr.’s three sons, notes his father’s strong work ethic. “He was a great leader who would never ask you to do something he wouldn’t do himself,” says Vince Stanley. “He has many traits that make him special. He played a major role in getting the marketing order. It was not as easy as many thought.” Brothers Brian Stanley and Tracey Stanley also work at Generation Farms.

In 2002, Cruz, who also grows his own onions marketed through Bland Farms, began working in the Vidalia onion industry at Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc.’s McRae, GA, sweet onion operation, where he was chief agronomist.

In 2004, he joined Bland and was close friends with early sweet onion grower Raymond Bland, Bland Farms’ co-founder and father of Delbert Bland, the current president of Bland Farms.

“Thank you, Delbert, because you gave me the opportunity,” says Cruz. “Each one of you gave me the knowledge of what I try to do in my life.” Committee chairman Troy Bland, Bland Farms’ chief operating officer, said Bland Farms wouldn’t be where it is without Cruz’s work. Raymond Bland was named 1993 grower of the year and was also inducted into the hall of fame.

In R.T. Stanley, Jr.’s hall of fame induction, Cruz stated that R.T. has helped every Vidalia grower by sharing his production knowledge. R.T. Stanley, Sr., R.T. Stanley, Jr.’s father, was inducted into the hall of fame in 2007. “This award means so much to me,” Stanley, Jr. says. “Like when my dad received it, I don’t know what to say except thank you. I am proud to be where I am today. So many good things have happened to me.”

Source: PerishableNews.com