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March 18--  A family farm in Toombs County has been honored by the Vidalia Onion Committee.

brettmcclainBrett McClain of McLain Farms is the "Grower of the Year" and he dedicated the award to his father, James McClain, who died last year, "This means a lot to us.  We work hard at it.  We lost our father last year.  He was our mentor and the one who pushed us back when we were young.  We didn't want to be pushed, but he pushed us anyway.  It means a lot to get this and honor his memory."

(L-R) Rusty McClain, Brett McClain, Onion Committee Chairman Troy Bland and Onion Committee Executive Director Bob Stafford.

Brett does the growing and his brother, Rusty, does the packing and shipping and says the award is all about teamwork, "This is a really big team effort from the growing, the planting, the transplanting, clipping, packing, logistics and sales, it's a whole team effort and that's what I want to emphasize.  We wouldn't be here today if it weren't for our awesome employees and team."

krieizenbeckThe Vidalia Onion Committee also inducted a seed scientist into its Hall of Fame.  Roy Kreizenbeck from Bakersfield, California was honored for his life's work of developing new varieties of Sweet Vidalia Onions, "It means a lot. It's your accomplishments you've had in life and it means so much when it impresses these people who make a living at it and they appreciate what you've done."

(L-R) Onion Committee Chairman Troy Bland, Hall of Fame inductee Roy Kreizenbeck and Onion Committee Executive Director Bob Stafford.

Brett McClain says Kreizenbeck's work helps Vidalia onion farmers keep moving forward, "Weather conditions change, seasons change and older varieties which used to be good have been replaced by newer and improved varieties which help our yields, our shelf life and our sweetness and flavors.  These guys don't ever stop and it makes us look good."

Kreizenbeck started working with Vidalia Onion farmers back in 1984, "It was such an ugly onion when I first got here. They were buying it from a seed company which was selling to the third world.  I said I can do better than that in a New York minute and that's how we got  going," he remembers.

As for this year's crop, the Grower of the Year is happy with it, "We're looking good.  We're going to have a real nice crop with some quality onions to ship.  They're going to be big and they're going to be sweet," Brett McClain said.

brittannybraddyThe awards ceremony was held Saturday night at the Vidalia Community Center and included recognition of former Montgomery County High School student Brittany Braddy, the recipient of this year's Courtney Wilkes Agriculture Scholarship from the Vidalia Onion Business Council. 

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