Campbell Vaughn: Georgia’s crops can really add up

Georgia is called the Peach State, but it could easily be called the chicken, blueberry, peanut, rye, or pecan state.

 

As an Agriculture Agent, once a year we have to compile information on different areas of agriculture for a survey called Farm Gate. Farm Gate describes the price of goods if they were bought directly from the farm without added markup. The last total Farm Gate Value for Georgia was $14 billion, so agriculture adds huge revenue for our state.

 

Food and fiber has a total economic contribution of $74 billion and accounts for approximately 412,000 jobs, which makes it by far the largest economy in Georgia. One in seven jobs in Georgia is related to agriculture.

Watch out, Brown Thrasher, the chicken may be giving you a run for your money for state bird with the amount of broilers and eggs produced by the poultry industry. Georgia is No. 1 in the nation for broiler production with a Farm Gate Value at $4.5 billion, as well as the seventh largest egg producer in the nation at $823 million. Broiler production is far and away Georgia’s No. 1 agriculture industry. As a matter of fact, Gainesville Georgia is called the “Chicken Capital of the World.” Poultry isn’t the only agricultural industry where Georgia ranks high, cattle sales are our second largest agricultural commodity, with beef at just over $1 billion.

What else does Georgia rank high in terms of production nationally? We are No. 1 in blueberries, peanuts and pecans. Our blueberry production is estimated at $335 million, peanuts at $575 million and pecans at $313 million. We are the No. 1 producer of pecans in the world. Cotton is still a huge commodity in Georgia ranking second to Texas. Cotton numbers yield $983 million.

Some other interesting rankings are that Georgia is first nationally in rye production as well as spring onions. Spring onions aren’t the same as the delicious Vidalia Onions we have grown to love, but the one similar to shallots and garlic. Georgia is ranked No. 2 nationally in the production of watermelon and cucumbers. Those are $130 million and $60 million commodities alone.

So where does the peach stand up in the national ranking for our state? No. 3 at $53 million. Also in at No. 3 are bell peppers at $121 million and sweet corn at $117 million.

I also heard “tall as a Georgia pine” many times over the years. We have a lot of them, so how does the timber industry rank in value in Georgia? Over $600 million.

Georgia has over 42,000 farms with the average farm size being 228 acres. That equates to 9.6 million acres in land used for some type of agriculture. Even though the average farm size is 228 acres, the majority of farms are in the 10- to 180-acre range. The top five counties for total Farm Gate Value are Madison, Colquitt, Franklin, Tattnall and Mitchell.

How did our local counties rank in the Farm Gate survey out of 159 Georgia counties?

Burke is No. 27 at $114 million. Wilkes is No. 38 at $112 million. Jefferson is No. 61 at $79 million. Screven is No. 63 at $77 million. McDuffie is No. 85 at $51 million. Jenkins is No. 93 at $44 million. Warren is No. 104 at $36 million. Glascock is No. 133 at $19 million. Lincoln is No. 134 at $18.7 million. Columbia is No. 140 at $15.5 million. Richmond County is No. 142 at $13.6 million.

A few other interesting notes about the Farm Gate Survey are that they take into account things like Agritourism, which is a $156 million industry. Ag Tourism includes things like guided hunts, cornfield mazes, pumpkin patches, pick-your-own crops, farmers markets and farm tours.

McDuffie County ranked second in the state for ornamental horticulture, with a total of $34 million in sales. A large part of that is from our friends at McCorkle and Dudley nurseries. Hunting leases for wildlife such as, deer, duck, and turkey tallied at almost $87 million for landowners.

So when you ride down the road and see some cotton, cow pastures, or a pumpkin patch, remember that those little things add up to the largest part of economy in Georgia, which is agriculture. Even when we don’t see many farms in our community, they are all around us supporting our economy and state’s revenues.

Reach Campbell Vaughn, the agriculture and natural resources cooperative extension agent for Richmond County, by emailing augusta@uga.edu.

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