GLENNVILLE, GA (WTOC) - Chefs of all levels have Friday circled on their calendars and the onion fields of South Georgia on their minds.
Growers of Georgia's most famous vegetable - the Vidalia sweet onion - could officially start shipping this year's crop off to markets and retailers around the country and beyond.
Onions in Glennville and across the region will soon be shipped all across North America. Crews in the field swept through rows of onions. By the caseload, they came to the shed for grading to go in bags and boxes headed for markets.
"Quality looks good. Size-wise, some of them aren't as big as I have seen them," said Robert Dasher, G&R Farms.
Dasher says extreme weather in January slowed the plants without causing major damage.
"Frosts. We have a couple of frosts on the onions. We had a lot of windy weather," Dasher said.
Growers have 11,000 acres of onions planted across the region. The crop means more than $150 million to the state's economy.
"This industry affects everybody here, from bankers to farm laborers to farm equipment and chemical suppliers," said Chris Tyson, UGA Extension Service.
Licensed growers sell under the trademarked Vidalia name with Georgia's agriculture department marketing them nationwide.
"Even though the Vidalia onion has been around a long time, we think we've got some real opportunities to expand its market," said Gary Black, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner.
By next week, tons of fresh onions will be in stores everywhere.
Growers could start packing and shipping ahead of this start date but they had to follow even more stringent rules to make sure quality onions get to the market.