Almost 300 people were on hand earlier this year for the annual Vidalia Onion Committee awards banquet when the committee unveiled its Ambassador Award, which went to Barbara Braddy of Braddy Farms Inc.

The Ambassador Award was created to recognize dedication and diligence to the Vidalia onion industry, said Susan Waters, executive director of the committee.

Kevin Hendrix, committee president, presented the award to Braddy.

“Barbara Braddy has contributed so much time and effort to our industry, the Ambassador Award was well deserved as it recognizes her passion, dedication and ongoing service,” Hendrix said during the presentation, according to a news release.

Braddy taught school for 30 years before retiring in 1999 and joining the family farm full-time as office manager.

She has been a member of the Vidalia Onion Committee, serving as secretary-treasurer in 2005-06, and has been active with the Vidalia Onion Business Council, breaking ground for other female growers.

“I was the only woman around for quite a long time,” Braddy said of her work for the industry organizations.

Braddy describes the 5,000-acre family farm in Mount Vernon, Ga., as a “small Vidalia onion” operation, but her peers say there is nothing small about her efforts to boost the image of Georgia’s trademarked sweet onions.

She uses Vidalia onions to helping others in her community.

“I sell a lot of Vidalia onions to churches and schools for their fund-raising projects,” she said.

“We also sponsor the Relay for Life and always donate onions.”

Established in 1966, Braddy Farms produces Vidalia onions, cotton, corn, soybeans and pecans.

Grower of the Year

Other honorees at the annual Vidalia banquet included Wallace and David Jarriel, owners of Dry Branch Farms, which was named the 2013 Vidalia Onion Grower of the Year.

Based in Collins, Ga., Dry Branch grows for Shuman Produce, which markets Vidalia onions under the Real Sweet brand.

John Shuman, president of the Glennville, Ga.-based company, said the Jarriel’s Dry Branch operation has been growing exclusively for Shuman Produce for a decade.

“We started working with them off and on in 1996,” Shuman said. “They are very good at what they do and we are proud to market their onions.”

Dry Branch Farms is a fourth-generation family farm. The Jarriels started growing, packing and shipping Vidalia onions in 1990. In 1995 they built a new packing house with controlled atmosphere rooms.

This season Dry Branch has 350-400 acres of Vidalia onions, according to a news release.

A golden moment for Stanleys

Also honored this year at the Vidalia banquet were R.T. and Dianne Stanley, Stanley Farms, Lyons, Ga., who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

Their son, Brian Stanley, said R.T. continues to work, even though he is 70 years old.

“He is the grower for us,” Brian Stanley said of his father.

“He is still in here every day.”