Georgia Agriculture – The State’s $71 Billion Industry
• Agriculture contributes more than $71.1 billion annually to Georgia's economy.
• The 2012 total Farm Gate Value for the state was $13.8 billion.
• One in seven Georgians works in agriculture, forestry or related fields.
• In 2012, there were 42,257 farms in Georgia encompassing 9,620,836 acres of land. The average farm size was 228 acres.
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.
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.
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.
2012 GEORGIA COMMODITY RANKINGS
(based on farm-gate value)
Information from UGA Center for Agribusiness & Economic Development
According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, during 2012, Georgia's agricultural producers sold more than $9.2 billion worth of agricultural products
The census showed more than 42,000 farms operating across the state, with 9.6 million acres in production. More than 17,000 of those farms raised cattle, either beef cows or dairy cows.
As for row crops, more than 2,600 farms grew cotton during 2012, planting nearly 1.3 million acres. Peanut farmers across the southern and eastern areas of Georgia produced 3.2 billion pounds of peanuts. Farmers across the state planted over 310,000 acres of corn and produced 52.4 million bushels.
According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, the state's forest industry makes a nearly $23.6 billion contribution to Georgia's economy, and we have more acres of commercial forest land (24.4 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 seven Georgians works in agriculture, forestry, or a related field.
HISTORY OF AGRICULTURE IN GEORGIA
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.
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.