Zimmatic Blog

Georgia Family Finds Sweet Success with Vidalia Onions

May 21, 2019

Georgia Family Finds Sweet Success with Vidalia Onions

For the McLain family, this is the sweetest time of the year. 

“We just completed harvesting this year’s crop of Vidalia onions,” said Brett McLain. “We had an excellent crop. The onions look very healthy.”

An excellent onion crop is nothing new for McLain Farms – a family-owned operation run by brothers Rusty and Brett along with Brett’s wife, Kim, and their two kids Chase and Allison. The operation recently earned recognition as the Vidalia Onion Grower of the Year– an award that emphasizes outstanding yields and quality. Brett and Rusty dedicated the award to their father, James, who passed away last year and said their success is a team effort.

“There are a lot of great growers out there, so this award means a lot to our family,” Brett McLain said. “We work really hard to maximize yield and produce great quality onions. We have a great crew, and we’re happy to share this with everyone who works on our operation – we couldn’t do it without them.”

Located near Lyons, Georgia, McLain Farms spans 550 total acres – 440 of which are planted in Vidalia onions. They also produce a few acres of soybeans and plant wheat as a cover crop. All but about 20 acres are irrigated with 17 Zimmatic center pivots – including one that’s been working over their fields for decades. 

“My dad bought the first pivot from Bill Brown, the original owner of Brown Implement. It was used when he bought it 30 or 40 years ago. We’re still using it today. Of course, we’ve had to make some minor repairs and updates, but it still works perfectly,” he said. “The pivots help us be more efficient. Without the pivots, we would be hauling irrigation pipe around the fields – working ourselves to death.”

While onions don’t need a lot of water, McLain said it’s important that they get the right amount during critical growth stages.

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"We plant the seeds in September, and it takes about eight weeks to grow the seedlings, which we transplant the first part of November. We have BOSS control panels on the pivots, so I can program them for week at a time. That’s really important because the seed beds have to be kept moist. I can program the pivots to start up at 11:00 in the morning and again at 3:00 in the afternoon. It’s so easy and efficient,” he said. “During the bulbing stage, they drink a lot of water. They need about ½ inch per week at that point.” 

McLain said, once they’re programmed, he doesn’t have to worry about his pivots, because they are equipped with FieldNET®– the industry’s leading remote monitoring and control solution.

“With FieldNET, everything is delivered to your phone. I can check my pivots from anywhere, and I get text messages if there are problems,” he said. “I don’t have time to be running around all day checking pivots. With FieldNET, I can spend my time working on other things.”

McLain said he and his family are also working on earning another Grower of the Year award. 

“We want to be the best in the industry. It’s what we work for,” he said. “It’s like winning the Daytona 500. It’s a real honor.”