Jun 7, 2024
Buck Shuman, Vidalia onion pioneer, remembered

The Vidalia onion industry is remembering and celebrating “the remarkable life and enduring legacy” of Benny DeTroy Shuman Jr.,  an early Vidalia onion grower.

Affectionately known to many as “Buck,” Shuman died May 31 at 91.

“Mr. Buck” Shuman was considered “a true pioneer” and esteemed Vidalia Onion Hall of Fame member, according to a news release. As the proprietor of Shuman Fertilizer Inc., and later marketing seed genetics to growers throughout the Vidalia region, Buck Shuman, father of John Shuman of Shuman Farms in Reidsville, Georgia, “left an indelible imprint on the onion industry.”

Buck Shuman
Buck Shuman

After graduating high school, Buck served in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s. He then worked in Atlanta for a plastering firm. Returning to his hometown, Shuman purchased Reidsville Feed and Seed, later renaming it Shuman Fertilizer and starting a new venture, Shuman Farms.

In the 1970s, Shuman “boldly pioneered the practice of blending fertilizers for his customers, challenging conventional methods and fundamentally transforming the way onions were grown during that period,” according to the release. “His unwavering belief in customizing fertilizer blends based on the unique needs of each field led to a groundbreaking innovation, crucial in preserving the unmistakable sweet, mild flavor of Vidalia onions, renowned for their exceptional quality.”

Beyond fertilizer blending, Buck Shuman’s commitment to the Vidalia onion industry extended to hands-on experience as an onion farmer that began in the early 1980s, where his profound understanding of cultivation practices played a pivotal role in establishing the Vidalia onion as the epitome of sweetness worldwide, according to the release.

His contributions Vidalia industry contributions were recognized in 2012 when he was inducted into the Vidalia Onion Hall of Fame.

Following retirement as a grower, Shuman joined D. Palmer Seed in 1994 as a Vidalia onion representative. In the role, he collaborated with breeders globally, developing cultivars and varieties that became the foremost sweet onion varieties in the Vidalia onion industry. Notably, his contributions include the Miss Megan and the Sapelo varieties, which were considered cornerstones of the industry.

“Buck Shuman’s passion for the Vidalia onion industry was not merely a profession but an intrinsic way of life. His unwavering dedication and tireless efforts over five decades have played an instrumental role in shaping the industry and upholding the esteemed brand image of Vidalia sweet onions,” according to the release.

Buck Shuman
Buck Shuman

Former Vidalia Extension agent Cliff Riner, vice president of G&R Farms and chairman of the Vidalia Onion Committee , paid tribute to Shuman’s legacy.

“Mr. Buck was a true legend in the industry; his reputation as the Southern gentleman and his passion for Vidalia Onions was as evident as anyone I know,” Riner said in the release. “His work ethic and dedication to enhancing the Vidalia sweet onion lasted for multiple decades, and I am extremely thankful for Mr. Buck’s legacy; he set the example for us all to follow.”

Other growers honored Shuman.

“He was always encouraging and wanted everyone to do good within our whole industry; our industry has lost its best and finest gentleman. Mr. Buck made you feel respected and valued, and he kept a smile and the humblest attitude,” Alan Sikes of Sikes Farms said in the release.

Delbert Bland, owner and president of Bland Farms and fellow Vidalia Onion Hall of Fame member, echoed similar comments.

Vidalia Onion Committee“Mr. Buck was a true mentor to me. He had a way of encouraging you when things were not going well. He injected a positive attitude into our industry, and I don’t know anyone he didn’t encourage and wanted to see succeed in our business. He was a blessing to know,” Bland said in the release.

R.T. Stanley, retired owner of Stanley Farms and Vidalia Onion Hall of Fame member, also commented on Shuman’s influence.

“I’ve always enjoyed doing business with Mr. Buck. When he sold fertilizer, he helped our farm; when he sold seed, he was a pleasure to do business with. He was both a friend and doing business with him for multiple decades meant a lot to me. I truly enjoyed our relationship. Most importantly, he was an outstanding family man and raised a great crop of children and a family that is well respected,” Stanley said in the release.

Buck is survived by his wife Marjorie, four children, Anna Shuman, Ben Shuman, John (Lana) Shuman, and Mark (Victoria) Shuman, all of Reidsville, step-children, seven grandchildren and other cousins, nieces and nephews.

Read Buck Shuman’s obituary here.

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