VIDALIA, Ga. — Several grower-shippers say retailers who buy their Vidalia onions are reassured by vertical integration, which allows for control of the produce from seed to store.

“Some retailers have started asking about (food safety) audits,” said Tina Collins, sales director at Plantation Sweets, Cobbtown, Ga.

“We have the Primus GFS audit, and that satisfies them. But most of them have known us for a long time and they know that we grow what we pack, and they don’t even ask about audits because they know we control the whole process.”

John Williams, sales manager for L.G. Herndon Jr. Farms, Lyons, Ga., agreed marketing one’s own onions is a selling point.

“We don’t broker any of our onions,” Williams said. “Our onions come fresh from the farm to retailers, and we know what’s going on with them the entire time.”

Williams said sometimes Herndon Farms slows down the process a bit to make sure that the best onions in the best condition are shipping.

“Quality and safety are everything to us,” Williams said. “Whether the order is four pallets a week or 20 pallets a week, we give it the same attention, and retailers respond to that treatment.”

Food safety issues have impacted the entire fresh produce industry, said Walt Dasher, co-owner of G&R Farms, Glennville, Ga.

His family has responded by maintaining tight control on the onions they grow and ship.

“Retailers know with our vertical integration we can track the who and where for each carton,” Dasher said. “It gives us a lot of comfort, too, because we know we are in control of our product.”