Travel + Leisure

Vidalia Onion Festival & Farm Tour in Georgia

V is for Vidalia #VisforVidalia Farm Tour

The “V is for Vidalia Campaign started on April 21,2014 and led into the 37th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival. To launch this campaign, the Vidalia Onion Committee invited food bloggers and media to share  the experience with a behind the scenes look at the Vidalia onion industry, as well as one-on-one with onion farmers.

Discovered in the 1930's, the Vidalia onion is Georgia's state vegetable and brings about $140-million farm gate value to the state's economy. According to research over 90% of consumers are familiar with Vidalia onions.

When I arrived at the hotel, I found a welcome bag filled with fruits and goodies. Our note from Susan Waters, Executive Director for Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC) welcomed us and let us know when were to be picked up for dinner at Elements Bistro. We were to savor special Vidalia onion dishes. And savor we did. Our driver was William Braddy, Compliance Officer for VOC.  On our way to the restaurant we stopped by the VOC office to meet the rest of the crew. We were also given a VOC bag filled with all kinds of Vidalia onion goodies.

Dinner started with Sweet onion chowder followed by onion and cucumber salad with basil vinaigrette. The main entrees were a grilled porterhouse pork chop with a bourbon demi-glace, pan roasted bacon wrapped diver scallop, sweet onion casserole,chef's potatoes, and onion puree. Dessert was a candied Vidalia onion cheesecake which I enjoyed with a glass of Italian Moscato.

Chef Michael Slavin talked about the new entrees for Applebee's menu and said we would be enjoyed them for lunch on Saturday. Applebees announced on April 25, 2014 the new Grilled Vidalia Onion Sirloin – a tender 7 oz sirloin, topped w a grilled and caramelized slice of  sweet Vidalia onion, with garlicky spinach, and smashed crisp red-skinned potatoes in an Hawaiian BBQ sauce.

Vidalia 35 edit 1000 px DSC_0356 Vidalia 10 edit 1000 px DSC_0405 Vidalia 9 edit 1000 px DSC_0403We toured McLain's Farm, one of the largest family owned Vidalia onion farm in Georgia. Upon arrival we were greeted by this wonderful aroma of fried onions and were given a basket of onion rings. There were 3 dipping sauces which were absolutely delicious. I still cannot decide which one I liked the best!

We were introduced to both family members and employees who are responsible for the operation of the business. Our group was divided for the packing shed tour so we were able to ask a lot of questions. After harvesting, the onions were places in large bins and then into one of four cavernous rooms to dry for 3 1/2 days,thus reducing the amount of spoilage. The onions are first sorted for spoilage, and the according to size on a large conveyor belt. The onions are then put into boxes for delivery. The facility uses numbers for sorting and packing, thereby resolving any future problems.

The whole group then went on a visit to the onion fields. The onions  are planted in four rows in each grouping. Vidalia onions can only be grown in the 3 counties around Vidalia because they have the proper soil conditions While touring the fields, we were able to see how the onions are harvested. Cliff Riner, Coordinator and Area Agent( fr U of GA) came on board and enlightened us about the many attributes of the Vidalia onion and its boon to Georgia's economy to the tune of $140,000,000.
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Once we returned to the plant, Chef Michael Slavin and his crew from Kansas City had prepared several dishes for us. This was the perfect opportunity to taste the Grilled Vidalia Onion Sirloin and several new dishes on the Applebees menu!

Later that evening, we went to the Vidalia Onion Festival to  hear Parmalee and watch the headliner, Uncle Kracker! At the VIP tent, we were wined and dined for the evening. The concert was very good.
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On Sunday, we had an opportunity to tour the museum at great depth. This facility is touted as ” as an interactive, historical experience. It highlight's the sweet onion's economic, cultural and culinary significance.” This facility provides kids with an opportunity to learn about the production of Vidalia onions as well as meet Yumion, the mascot. The exhibit also everyone to see the smallest registered Vidalia onion field in front of the building.
One of the culminating events was the 3rd Annual Golden Onion ProfessionalCooking Competition. This event is presented by the Vidalia Onion Festival Committee in cooperation with the Georgia RestaurantAssociation.

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This is our group during the Vidalia onion fields tour of McLain Farms. Say – “V is for Vidalia” everyone! Pictured from left to right.

Brenda from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles
Alyce Head, Editorial Director for Cooking with Paula Deen Magazine
Julie from The Little Kitchen
My mother who attended for my blog
Susan, Executive Director of the Vidalia Onion Committee
Liz from A Nut in a Nutshell
Paula from Bell’Alimento
Karen from In the Kitchen with KP
Jennifer from Mother Thyme
Crystal from Mrs. Happy Homemaker
Susan from Doughmesstic
Meredith from In Sock Monkey Slippers
Christine from Cook the Story
Julia, Associate Editor for Cooking with Paula Deen Magazine

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Photos via the Vidalia Onion Committee and Christine Pittman of Cook the Story.

I would like to thank Susan,the committee members, staff, the growers, restaurants and the whole Vidalia community for I did indeed”experience firsthand the growing process from field to table. I am impressed with the community cohesiveness. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!

The Vidalia Onion Committee sponsored this trip to Vidalia. All opinions are our own. 

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42 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. What a great time! I love the pic of me in the onion field! Super fun experience and your mom was lovely!

  2. I am so glad to learn about this. We have some amazing family farms here in Georgia!

  3. ellen beck

    You had a nice group there! Now this is one place I wouldnt mind visiting we all love Vidalia onions. Here in the Midwest we wait for those sweet onions to come into season and when they do I get several bags ! I love them in everything but one of our favorite ways is to put one in foil (after peeling ) add butter and sea salt and pop it on the grill. Yummy!

  4. This sounds like you ladies had a ball. I love Vidalia onions and my husband just bought a bag last week. I enjoy them raw for their sweetness but also enjoy using them in recipes and sauté. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  5. Georgia Represent! I love Vidalia onions- they are really the only onions that I like. My grandfather used to eat them like an apple!

  6. That sounds like a fun event that you guys went to. We are BIG fans of onions in our house and add them in whenever we can!

  7. We love onions- I grill them ALL the time in the summer.

  8. tee mccluskey

    How cool, I love going to different types of places life this one and learning new things! Way cool!

  9. It sounds like a great event. The food sounds amazing too!

  10. That looks like an amazing event. Very interesting time.

  11. Looks like a fun trip! That picture of Karen pulling up the onion is cracking me up!

  12. Vidalias are my #1 favorite onion. I use them in everything, even if I’m not supposed to…. I see some other familiar faces on that trip, too!

  13. Awesome photos! Looks like an amazing day. I love learning more about the food that we eat.

  14. i love vidalia onions. my dad makes really great onion rings from them

  15. What a fun experience. I love vidalia onions – they make my sauce so yummy!

  16. Jenn

    What fun! Georgia is our neighbor so I’d like to visit sometime.

  17. We can get fresh onions in Manhattan at the farmers market, but not fresh sweet Vidalia’s! I am so jealous, I love cooking with onions, I love how they taste, I cook them with garlic and /or my other fav veggie, zucchini!
    Now I want some!
    Mitch

  18. That looks pretty fun! We’re wheat and soybean farmers, and I always love to go out in the fields.

  19. Never heard of this before.Sounds like you had a great time,I never though onions could be so interesting lol.I love onions though and we grow some in our yard.

  20. What a fun experience. I love Vidalia onions!

  21. Oh I would have loved to go to that! I just love onions and have them in almost everything. I’ve never been to an onion farm though.

  22. What a great blogging group you were with! I’m still in disbelief that there is a Vidalia Onion Festival. So many onions! And so many yummy foods that you can use them with/for.

  23. Candace Hagerty

    Looks like so much fun, I have never wanted to eat an onion so bad in my life. That roasted onion looks so delish!

  24. Looks like a lot of fun. I would love some onion rings right now for sure.

  25. This would be such a fun trip for us to take! My hubby LOVES Vidalia onions!

  26. Ann Bacciaglia

    So cool! The photos of the onions in the ground are so neat! It looks like a very fun event. Thank you for sharing your great photos.

  27. I never heard of the Vidalia Onion Festival before. I bet there was some good eats there.

  28. veronica

    I have seen this done for fruits like apples and strawberries but never for onions. Very interesting. I am not sure I like the smell of onions to be in the fields like that, but it looked like a fun day and a great activity with a bunch of friends. Farm tours are always great!

  29. Mmm mmm mm I l ove me some Vidalia onions (my favorite)! I like your pics too, you got some really good ones!

  30. It was such a pleasure to meet you, Marie, and I hope to see you again sometime! Everything about the Vidalia Onion trip was amazing!

  31. What a cool experience! I think that this looks like so much fun! We use Vidalia Onions all the time!

  32. This is a great place to go to! There are a lot of things that you can learn from farms and I would like to visit one the local farms near us. 🙂

  33. Looks like a fun event! Love Vidalia onions. I’m thinking about onion rings now, thanks!

  34. I see lots of my friends went! What beautiful onions too. Glad your mom had fun

  35. There is a festival for everything! I live in GA I never heard of this!

  36. That sounds like a fun event! I am impressed with that large onion. We have onion grass growing in our yard, but every time I pull it up, it’s just tiny baby onions. I would be wowed if I ripped a big one like that out of the ground!

  37. Sauteed Vidalia onions are one of my favorite treats. The Vidalias are so tender and sweet.

  38. What a great time an experience. I used to know a lady that ate onions like apples! I can’t do that but I do like them grilled.

  39. My mother loves onions she cooks with them all the time. THis looks like it was an fantastic festival and it looks like you had a grey time as well.

  40. Aww, how fun! I used to have family near Vidalia!

  41. I really dont know much about Onion so this looks like a fun trip. Enjoy!

  42. What an awesome trip – I love me some onions! Especially fried ones on a burger or chicken sandwich.

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