VIDALIA, GA – The Vidalia onion industry honored one of its pioneers by inducting R.E. Hendrix, president of Hendrix Produce, Inc., into its hall of fame.
In 1988, Hendrix was one of a small group of growers who traveled to Washington, DC, to persuade the U.S. Department of Agriculture to form the Vidalia Onion Committee, which administers the federal marketing order.
“This is truly a privilege to honor R.E.,” says committee chairman Aries Haygood, president of A&M Farms in Lyons, GA. Haygood inducted Hendrix into the hall of fame at the Feb. 22 Vidalia onion banquet and awards ceremony. “The list of the hall of fame is of movers and shakers. Many were there in the beginning. They took the bull by the horns and fought for our marketing order. They did many things many of my generation didn’t know.”
In 1976, Hendrix planted his first crop of Vidalia onions. Over the years, those four acres expanded into a year-round sweet onion growing and shipping operation which distributes sweet onions from Peru, Mexico and the U.S. It also markets a line of Vidalia condiments.
“I don’t feel like I deserve this,” says Hendrix. “This is the first thing that has made me smile about this year.” Hendrix referred to the passing of his wife, Mary, who died Jan. 4. The two were married for 53 years.
R.E. and his son, Kevin Hendrix, vice president, own the Metter, GA, operation, which also grows watermelons. In recent years, it added mandarin oranges. The company was a pioneer in the controlled atmosphere Vidalia storage deal and was one of the first to offer certified organic Vidalias.
Bob Stafford, manager Vidalia Onion Committee, described R.E. Hendrix as a grower leader who always provided the industry solid advice, including the need to cut acreage for last year’s crop, which Hendrix also did. In 2019, the industry grew more onions on 2,000 fewer acres, which resulted in higher sales and was one of the best years in terms of grower returns, says Stafford. “R.E. doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk,” says Stafford.
In 1995, Hendrix was honored as Vidalia Onion Grower of the Year. He served many years on the boards of the Vidalia Onion Committee and the Vidalia Onion Business Council, which protects the growing, harvesting and marketing of Vidalia onions.
The hall of fame is an important part of and the highest honor bestowed by the Vidalia industry. Every year, the industry honors individuals for their accomplishments which exceed the usual.