2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Cliff Riner

Age: 40

Vice President of Ag Production and Grower Relations
G&R Farms
Glennville, GA

Hometown: Reidsville, Georgia
Hobbies: Work, Golfing, Raising livestock with his daughters
Family/Community: Married, Two daughters, Mount Moriah Church, Georgia Club Goat Producers Association.
Motto in life: Don’t be “most people” — the definition of being exceptional is to be different than “most people!”

Riner began his professional career as the University of Georgia (UGA) Cooperative Extension agricultural and natural resource agent in Tattnall County, GA, in May of 2006. In that position, he conducted several research trials on multiple vegetable crops. He specialized in the research of Vidalia onions, the county’s primary cash crop, and received several state and regional awards for his research.

In 2013, Riner was promoted to the Vidalia onion area specialist and coordinator of the Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center. This position served the entire 20-county production region for Vidalia onions in troubleshooting production issues and coordinated all research efforts for the state’s vegetable. His most notable achievement in this position was helping establish the UGA Crop Quality Laboratory and conducting in partnership with them a multi-year study that created new findings in the production and flavor testing of sweet onions.

In July of 2018, Riner took a position at G&R Farms as director of crop production. He has developed a sustainability plan to protect the soil and water resources in the fields, and has increased the crop rotation, and certified organic acreage for G&R Farms. He implemented a “Seed to Table” video series that is housed at the G&R Farms’ YouTube channel, and an e-newsletter that updates and educates retail partners about the progress of the crop and sustainability plans. He currently serves as the chairman of the Vidalia Onion Committee and the Vidalia Onion Business Council, vice president of the Tattnall County Farm Bureau, and is a board member for the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?
To be patient. It’s so easy to be passionate and love what you do in this industry, however, you cannot and will not accomplish everything you want to in one or two years. The opportunities to succeed are always there.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?
How fortunate they are to have a safe supply of food to eat. With the challenges of producing and the logistics of the perishable crops, it’s a miracle how blessed we are as a society to have produce to eat and that is readily available.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?
Overall, the produce industry is more demanding – from handling paperwork for labor to food safety and regulatory issues. It’s rare to meet someone who just is a farmer producing crops.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
Hosting the National Onion Association and National Allium Research Conference meeting in Georgia in 2016. Also, finalizing the multiple years of research on Vidalia onion flavor that led to reducing the sulfur fertilizer rates across the entire industry.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
Network as much as possible. The opportunities are many and the connections are what makes you valuable in the industry.