VIDALIA, GA – Alan Sikes of Sikes Farms is the 2019 Vidalia Onion Grower of the Year. This year’s winner was part of a trifecta of grower finalists who market their sweet onions through Shuman Farms, Inc.
Sikes’ Collins, GA, operation was honored at the Feb. 22 Vidalia onion banquet and awards ceremony. The other nominees were Dry Branch Farms, Collins, GA, and McLain Farms, Inc., Lyons, GA. All market through Reidsville, GA-based Shuman Farms’ Real Sweet label.
Sikes grew up on his family’s peanut and tobacco farm. The former Alaska bush pilot returned to Georgia to farm in the early 1990s. He and his wife, Tracy Sikes, began growing Vidalias in 1993 on six acres. Today, it grows 600 acres.
“The grower of the year award is a prestigious award,” says Cliff Riner, vice chairman of the Vidalia Onion Committee and crop production manager with G&R Farms, in Glennville, GA. Riner presented the award.
This year, the committee initiated a new system recognizing three top growers every year. Those honored are based on the highest per-acre marketing order assessment generated by their farming operations. An anonymous selection committee determines the top winner.
Owned by David and Wallace Jarriel, Dry Branch began growing Vidalias as a side crop in 1980. The company started with five acres. Today, it grows 400 acres. Dry Branch has third generation family members involved.
Operated by brothers Brett and Rusty McLain, McLain Farms began operations in 1985. It grows more than 400 acres of Vidalias and also grows organics.
The grower of the year award is designed to recognize a grower and growing operation’s overall achievements and success as a producer of Vidalia onions. The award emphasizes quality, production and the ability to work within the confines of the Vidalia onion marketing order.