The World of Vidalia Onions: A Visit with A & M Farms

posted on Friday, June 28, 2024 in Dealer News

Vidalia Onion harvest season brings a lot of stress to A & M Farms, but John Deere equipment has given them something to rely on.

“Today’s like, the most stressful day of the year.” That’s not something you’d expect to hear from a man with a smile on his face, but it’s exactly how our interview with Aries Haygood, President of A & M Farms, began. 

Man laughs while wearing a Lasseter Tractor Company hat

You see, Aries is a long time Lasseter customer and friend who was kind enough to give our team a behind-the-scenes look at Vidalia onion harvest…on this year’s official pack date of April 17, 2024. If you don’t know why that’s such a big deal, keep reading and you’ll find out.

First, let’s talk about A & M Farms just a bit. Located in Lyons, GA, A & M Farms is co-owned by husband and wife team Aries and Megan Haygood. This family-owned and operated farm has produced Vidalia onions for over 30 years. Every spring, the operation boxes up and ships out over 80,000 pounds of Vidalia onions across the lower 48 United States. 

Main in field walks to John Deere tractor

Readers outside the growing region for Vidalias may not fully understand why this crop is so fascinating. Here are a few fast facts about this seasonal treat: 

  • An onion is only a Vidalia onion if it’s grown within a certain geographical area. This area includes the whole of 13 Georgia counties and a portion of 7 others. 
  • The sweetness of the Vidalia onion can be attributed to the sulfur content in the soil present within this growing region. 
  • In 1989, Vidalia onion producers met to enact Federal Marketing Order No. 955, a USDA program that established the Vidalia Onion Committee and extended the definition of this special crop to the federal level. 
  • This crop is so beloved that there’s even a festival dedicated to it. Every year, thousands of people flock to the four-day affair in Vidalia, GA. The festivities include everything from concerts and pageants to a raw onion eating contest!

“My brother won the [onion eating contest] one year,” revealed Haygood. He laughed as he added, “He ate 9 straight and puked afterwards. I think that pretty much happens to everybody at the end.”

Competing to see how many raw onions can be eaten at once is probably the only way in which Vidalia’s aren’t fully enjoyed. There’s high demand for this crop around the country each year, and for good reason: their sweet taste is unlike any other. 

Vidalia onions after being picked

Taking this delicacy from farm to table is no small feat. Each Vidalia onion is hand-clipped in the field to ensure that each “neck” dries properly. From there, Vidalias are transported to facilities like the one at A & M Farms to be weighed, reviewed for quality control and graded. Onions that pass inspection are then either distributed to retailers immediately or stored. 

This process can be intensely physically demanding, so A & M Farms has worked diligently to adopt technologies that improve efficiencies and quality of life for their team. Their operation even has a robot designed to assist with lifting the 40-pound Vidalia onion boxes and assist with moving them through the assembly line more smoothly.

Vidalia onions on a conveyor belt

In addition to their trademark sweetness, Vidalias are known for their high water content. While this makes for deliciousness in every bite, it can make storing the crop a challenge. Given that roughly ? of the crop is stored to ship throughout the season, growers must keep their Vidalias as dry as possible, controlling for humidity more so than temperature. 

Quick Facts of Harvest Season of Vidalia Onions

he above means that there are roughly only 30 days available to harvest 400 acres of Vidalia onions. On average, 70,000 plants are produced per each acre planted. That means growers have roughly a month to get nearly 30,000,000 Vidalia onions harvested! 

As you can imagine, equipment you can depend on is a huge part of making all this happen. From tractors powerful enough for the task at hand to John Deere skid steers and more, Lasseter is proud to provide A & M Farms with the John Deere products they need. 

“The reliability of John Deere equipment is absolutely better than the rest. We ride green around here,” said Haygood.

A John Deere tractor is used to pull onions from the ground

Beyond this, it’s a privilege to offer service that goes above and beyond for people like the fine folks at A & M Farms. 

“If you’re looking for the right team to support you in what you’re doing daily, one that’s going to help you provide for your family, Lasseter Tractor is that team,” said Haygood. “They know what they’re doing. They know what they’re selling. They have a parts department that will get you what you need as quickly as they can. A lot of (the staff) are farmers themselves, so they really understand.”

Next time you’re at the grocery store or farmers market, we hope you’ll pick up your own bag of Vidalia onions! To find the Lasseter Tractor Company John Deere dealership location nearest you, visit us online. We’re proud to have been south Georgia’s hometown John Deere dealer since 1956.