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Peaches and onions still define Georgia

No discussion of Georgia produce would be complete without noting peaches and Vidalia onions, both of which have unique positions in the produce marketplace.

Following an 80-year industry decline during which Georgia fell behind both California and South Carolina in peach production, Will McGehee of The Genuine Georgia Group, appears to be succeeding in his efforts to revive the Georgia peach industry.

Five growers have joined forces in his sales and marketing co-op, hoping to reestablish the “Georgia Peach” brand in the minds of consumers.

Working together, the growers are able to provide retailers with consistent supply and pricing integrity, he says. Peach acreage has increased 20 percent in the last five years, with 50 percent growth in plantings and a 36 percent rise in f.o.b. prices.

Vidalia onions, which can only be planted in a legally-defined 20-county area, are worth $120 million to the state’s coffers each year. One hundred registered growers plant 12,000 acres and ship 5 million 40-pound boxes each season.

It is believed that Georgia’s sandy, low sulfur soil makes the onion sweet, and to prove it, the University of Georgia’s Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center, located in the heart of the growing region, researches such topics as the effect of planting date on flavor, Vidalia plant pathology, and regularly runs taste panels with humans and lab machines to measure various inputs on the famous onion’s pungency, heat, and aftertaste.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.

Cathy Poynton is a Chicago-area writer focused on issues of public policy as they relate to the food industry, including fresh produce.