The Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC) announced recently that its long-time Manager, Bob Stafford, has officially retired. His last day as the Executive Director of the Vidalia Onion Committee (Committee) was January 1, 2023, after working with the Vidalia Onion Committee and the Vidalia Onion Business Council for 29 years. The Committee will now be looking to fill his position with a new Executive Director.
In 1994, Stafford was brought onto the Vidalia Onion Committee as a Compliance Officer to assist the development of a compliance plan. He then went on to work side-by-side with VOC members for audits, along with product labeling and other rules and regulations to maintain the strength of the Vidalia onion trademark. In his time conducting audits, Stafford saw the needs of each farmer and knew he had experience to address and provide support for them in his role on the Committee. Stafford also spent much of his time keeping a good rapport with consumers, often engaging with them directly on their experiences with Vidalia onions. He was selected to manage the VOC in 2017.
In his 29 years on the VOC, Stafford has achieved numerous accomplishments. In 2009, he was elected to the Vidalia Onion Hall of Fame, an award granted by the Committee to honor individual leaders for their character and contributions to the growth and success of Vidalia onions. He also spearheaded efforts to distinguish which farm each Vidalia onion comes from on the label. Stafford also worked to implement the royalty fee for including Vidalia onions in processed foods, ensuring funds are utilized for Vidalia onion trademark protection and promotion.
“Over the course of my career working with the Committee, my fondest of times have been with the Vidalia onion growers,” said Stafford. “I joined the VOC in 1994, working under a 10-day timeframe on the compliance plan, and 29 years later, I’m finishing up with them now. I’ve been very proud to have a hand in the Vidalia onion trademark and of all the advancement we’ve made on our research and promotion to produce a quality sweet Vidalia onion that consumers seek out.”
Much of Stafford’s work has been in conjunction with his role as Director of the Vidalia Onion Business Council, which he joined in the late 1990s. He has spent a lot of time partnering with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to execute Federal Marketing Order No. 955. Stafford will remain a consultant on the Vidalia Onion Business Council until that position is filled.
“Bob’s dedication to the Vidalia Onion industry has been invaluable to our industry,” said Cliff Riner, Chairman of the VOC. “He has been a major driver for improving our market and our brand’s quality through his support of research, promotion, and unifying the industry. Bob worked behind the scenes all for the glory of the Vidalia Onion and the growers, not his own. We are extremely grateful for his service and his family’s commitment to our industry.”
The Vidalia Onion Committee is now seeking a new Executive Director. For those interested in the position, they can learn more and apply here.
“I’ve worked in many areas of the Eastern part of the country, and I’ve never seen a group work as closely together as Vidalia onion farmers do,” said Stafford. “It’s just a very special, unique situation to be part of and I’ve been so happy with the program we’ve put together.”
About the Vidalia® Onion Committee
Because Vidalia® onions are sweetly unique, farmers united to seek legal protection for their crop and its name. Federal Marketing Order No. 955 was established in 1989, to stipulate where the crop can be grown and help with research and promotion of Vidalia onions. The Vidalia Onion Committee administers FMO No. 955 and authorizes production research, marketing research and development and marketing promotion programs. This federal program along with Georgia state laws that protect the Vidalia trademark have provided a legal framework for the industry. So, you can try to grow a sweet onion elsewhere, but you cannot call it a “Vidalia,” unless it is from Georgia! For more information, visit VidaliaOnion.org.
SOURCE Vidalia Onion Committee