John Shuman, president and CEO of Shuman Farms in Cobbtown, Georgia, has been named the 2020 Grower of the Year by the Vidalia Onion Committee. The honor was given in recognition of Shuman’s contributions to the industry for more than 25 years.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Buck Shuman, who began growing Vidalia onions in the 1980s, John Shuman took over his family’s farm in the early 1990s, rebuilding it from the ground up following the national farm crisis of the previous decade. Today, Shuman Farms is one of the largest growers of Vidalia onions in North America.
A graduate of Georgia Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Shuman has served as VOC chairman, chairman of the board of the Southeast Produce Council and a member of the Georgia Ports Authority Board of Directors.
In addition to his business success, in 2002, Shuman founded Produce for Kids, now Healthy Family Project, which has raised more than $7 million to benefit children and families. Shuman Farms also provides annual donations to Feeding America and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
“In the last quarter century, John has played a leading role in building the Vidalia onion brand to become the country’s most iconic vegetable,” said Aries Haygood, VOC chairman. “But even more importantly, John and his family have devoted considerable time and energy giving back to the community.”
“I am honored and humbled to be recognized by the Vidalia onion industry to receive one of our highest awards,” said Shuman. “I have been fortunate to have had the support of my wife, Lana, as well as the advice and counsel from some of the most respected Vidalia onion growers in the state. As you know, it takes a village to do what we do, so this award goes to everyone at Shuman Farms. I want to especially thank my brother Mark for his dedication and leadership.”
First discovered in the 1930s, Vidalia onions quickly grew in popularity over the next few decades. Under a combination of federal regulations and Georgia state laws, only sweet onions grown in 20 South Georgia counties from a distinctive Granex seed and packed and sold on or after the official pack date each year could be called Vidalia onions.
Known for its sweet, mild flavor, treasured by cooks nationwide, the vegetable is hand-cultivated by 60 registered growers. Vidalia onions represent about 40 percent of the sweet onion market and are sold in every state.