A Story Sixty Years in the Making
Bland Farms takes great pride in being a family owned and operated business. The history of Bland Farms dates back 60 years when Raymond Bland started a small 50-acre farm by planting peanuts and corn and tomatoes a few years later.
The entire Bland family was involved with packaging, grading and shipping produce to distant markets and during the late 50s and early 60s the Bland produce operation grew. Delbert Bland, Raymond’s son, was there, watching as the tractor-trailers crated produce to distant places. As Delbert matured, he knew his fascination would play an important role in the future of Bland Farms. It was in a crop that the Blands had not yet grown that Delbert’s dream would be realized. at crop was the Vidalia® sweet onion.
Upon graduating from high school, Delbert devoted his full attention to running the farm, and together with Mr. Raymond, decided to enter the Vidalia® sweet onion business. At the time, the production and demand for Vidalia® sweet onions was growing at a slow pace with most being sold in the southeastern part of the country. After a successful season of growing a small plot of acreage in 1976, Bland Farms was officially in the Vidalia® sweet onion business.
Producing a good crop was not enough for Delbert though. His dream went beyond the art of farming. Delbert’s dream included seeing his family’s products grow from a regional specialty to a national necessity. To sell his onions, Delbert began traveling to all parts of the country, meeting people, handing out onions, and forging strong relationships. His efforts would be instrumental in developing and promoting the now famous Vidalia® sweet onion.
In 1983, Bland Farms began a mail-order business, advertising with a tiny ad in a new publication titled Southern Living magazine, which quickly grew to more than two million subscribers. Business took-o and the Vidalia® sweet onion gained national notoriety and differentiation with Bland Farms’ implementation of PLU stickers to ensure that Vidalia® sweet onions were never confused with conventional onions.
In 1990 Bland Farms took an innovative and bold step by building and utilizing the latest in fresh produce preservation technology, controlled-atmosphere storage rooms. e rooms extended the availability of Vidalia® sweet onions from only two months to four months. Five years later Bland Farms entered the frozen food market by ofering frozen onion rings and chopped onion bits, quickly becoming the nation’s third largest distributor of such products.
The once seasonal operation is now multi-national with locations in Peru and Mexico. Bland’s domestic locations span the nation and include Georgia, Texas, Washington, Pennsylvania, New York, and California. In 2008, Bland Farms opened a new cross-docking facility in Donna, Texas valued at more than 6 million dollars. In 2009, expansion of Bland Farms continued with the purchase of Zappala Farms in New York, the Empire-Sweets Brand, and the construction of Bellville Agri-Solutions, an agricultural fertilizer, chemical and services facility. Today, Bland Farms is recognized as the largest grower, packer, and shipper of sweet onions.