James Sept-Oct 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 11
agricultural experiment station in America, and many
new crops, including cotton, were introduced.
The 1793 invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney,
while he was visiting a friend near Savannah, revolutionized the cotton industry. By 1860 there were 68,000 farms
in the state producing 700,000 bales of cotton. Sometimes
called “white gold,” cotton is the most widely grown row
crop in Georgia.
Records show the most cotton acres planted in Georgia were in 1914, with 5.15 million. Today Georgia typically plants more than 1 million acres per year. The first
cotton mill in Georgia, the Bolton Factory was built in
1811, near Washington.
colonists in 1733. In fact, the British colony’s founder, Gen.
James E. Oglethorpe, sought the advice of Native Americans on hunting and growing food. One of the major goals
of those colonists was to produce agricultural commodities
for export to England. Within a short time, they were sending corn, rice, indigo, silk and wine back to England.
The trustees of the colony established an experimental garden of ten acres in Savannah and employed a
botanist to collect seeds, drugs, and dyestuff from other
countries with a similar climate to conduct research on
how they could be grown in Georgia. This was the first
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Georgia’s Bright Agriculture Future
“I think people have different ideas of what constitutes agriculture in Georgia,” says Dr. David Bridges,
president of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. “For
some, it’s big fields of crops, turf, flowers, forestry, cotton,
peanuts. But in Georgia, it really doesn’t matter what
view you have. Any way you define it, agriculture is the
leading industry in the state.”
“We have blueberries, pecans, cotton, peanuts,
peaches,” he continues. “Forestry is definitely big. We
have the largest forestry product industry in the Eastern U.S. and probably the country. Georgia is first or
second in the country in peanut production. We are the
largest producer of blueberries and pecans, second in
watermelon and third in vegetables. And we can’t forget
the poultry industry. It was mainly in North Georgia for
years— now it’s all over the state.”
According to Bridges, two-thirds of the 159 counties
in Georgia have ag as their No 1 or No 2 economic enterprise. In 50 percent of the counties, at least half of their
tax base is accrued in agricultural assets. “Many believe
that as ag in Georgia goes, so goes the rest of the state,”
says Bridges. “I believe that is a very true statement.”
And that’s why Bridges, who also serves as Director of
the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation— created
in 2018 to foster economic development prosperity in
rural Georgia— emphasizes that the agriculture picture
in Georgia will remain strong.
Let’s Not Forget Peanuts and Pecans
Did you know that Georgia peanuts account for about
$2 billion to our state’s economy just from the production
and shelling processes? That number is significantly higher if you follow them all the way to the dinner table. Also,
almost two thirds of the Georgia peanut crop ends up in
peanut butter— a staple in over 90 percent of the households in America today.
“Georgia produces over half the U.S. peanut crop
each year so not only are peanuts important to the Georgia economy, but Georgia peanuts are also important to
consumers throughout the world who depend on them
as a source of a delicious and nutritious food product,”
says Georgia peanut Commission Executive Director
Don Koeler. “Peanuts are not only delicious, they are
nutritious and have recently been tagged as a superfood
because of their recommended inclusion in the diet
for a healthy lifestyle. Peanuts have been shown to be
heart healthy, have a positive impact on individuals with
adult-onset diabetes, and even have beneficial effects on
some types of cancer.”
Consider these other peanut facts:
• Georgia farmers produced 53 percent of the United States’
peanuts in 2020—more than 1.64 million tons.
• Georgia farmers harvested 800,000 acres, yielding an
average of 4,100 pounds per acre.
that Georgia’s farmers have adapted. They continue to
provide diverse agricultural products to consumers. And
farming today is more than just growing crops and raising livestock. As the Farm Bureau’s Harvey says, “An intricate, high-tech network of processing, marketing and
distribution moves agricultural commodities from the
farmer to the consumer. All these pieces work together
to provide you with the safest, most abundant, and most
secure food supply in the world.”
Cindy Morley is a staff writer for InsiderAdvantage Georgia and
• Georgia farmers planted peanuts in 76 counties in Georgia.
• Georgia has approximately 4,500 peanut farmers.
• Georgia peanuts accounted for 23 percent of the state’s row
and forage crops income.
“It’s no secret that Georgia’s number one industry
is agriculture, contributing roughly $76 billion to the
Georgia economy each year and approximately 400,000
jobs,” says Samantha McLeod, executive director of the
Georgia Pecan Growers Association. “Georgia pecans,
on average, contribute nearly $300 million to the state’s
economy and rank in Georgia’s top ten contributing
commodities by value,” she says, adding that Georgia is
the top pecan producing state. In fact, McLeod proudly
notes, the pecan has recently been designated as the
state’s official nut and, in addition, the state established
a new sizing category to spotlight the large, premium
pecans called the Georgia Grand. “Georgia pecans contain over 19 vitamins and minerals and are packed with
antioxidants,” she continues. “Thanks to their nutrient
density, Georgia pecans are certified Heart-Healthy by
the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check Food
Over the years, agriculture has seen great changes,
but it is clear from this writer’s research and interviews
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