Georgia Agriculture – The State’s $71 Billion Industry
• Agriculture contributes more than $71.1 billion annually to Georgia's economy.
• The 2011 total Farm Gate Value for the state was $13 billion.
• One in seven Georgians works in agriculture, forestry or related fields.
• In 2007 there were 47,846 farms in Georgia encompassing 10,150,539 acres of land with an average size of 212 acres per farm.
Georgia is blessed with a climate that allows tremendous opportunities for farmers. Virtually any crop or animal can be grown successfully somewhere within the state. We’re known for our sweet Georgia peaches, our peanuts and those delicious Vidalia Onions. But the state’s ag picture is so much larger.
Georgia is perennially the number one state in the nation in the production of peanuts, broilers (chickens), pecans and watermelons. We are also near the top when it comes to cotton, peaches, eggs, tobacco, tomatoes, onions, cantaloupes, cabbage and blueberries. Producers across the state raise cattle, horses, goats, sheep, hogs, poultry, turkeys and alligators. No matter which part of our state you visit, you’ll see some form of agricultural production.
Agriculture is Georgia’s oldest and largest industry. It has played a dominant role in Georgia's economy for almost three centuries, beginning with the settlement by English colonists in 1733. The colony's founder, General 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 agricultural experiment station in America, and many new crops, including cotton, were introduced.
The invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793 while he was visiting a friend near Savannah revolutionized the cotton industry. By 1860 there were 68,000 farms in the state, and they produced 700,000 bales of cotton.
Cotton was king from the late 1700s until the boll weevil spread across the state in 1915. Following the successful boll weevil eradication program, cotton is once again an important Georgia crop.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, during 2007 Georgia agriculture generated more than $6.8 billion in cash receipts to the state's economy.
The census showed almost 48,000 farms operating across the state, with more than 10 million acres in production. More than 20,000 of those farms raised cattle, either beef cows or dairy cows.
As for row crops, more than 3,000 farms grew corn during 2007, planting nearly a half-million acres. Peanut farmers across the southern and eastern areas of Georgia produced 1.6 billion pounds of peanuts. Nearly a million acres of cotton were grown in the state during 2007
Forestry makes a nearly $14.5 billion contribution to Georgia's economy, and we have more acres of commercial forest land (23.8 million acres) than any other state.
Despite all the changes in society, farming remains the foundation of the state's economic well-being. Approximately one in six Georgians works in agriculture, forestry, or a related field.
Farming is one of mankind’s original jobs, and those who till the soil have always been stewards of the land. Georgia’s farmers take pride in their work. In turn, they go to great lengths to protect their land and surrounding environments. Modern conservation and best production practices help to protect the land and grow safer, healthier crops.
Agriculture has seen great changes through the years, and Georgia’s farmers have adapted. They continue to provide diverse agricultural products to consumers, but farming today is more than just growing crops and raising livestock. An intricate, high-tech network of processing, marketing and distribution moves agricultural commodities from the farmer to the consumer. All these work together to provide you with the safest, most abundant, and most secure food supply in the world.
We've produced a video called "Without Farmers, Georgia Can't Grow", which spotlights Georgia Agriculture. It's a geographical tour of Georgia through its agriculture.