If you asked a Georgian what our state’s number one industry is, what would they say? Manufacturing? Coca-Cola? Cinema?
How many would say agriculture?
As the state’s oldest and most prosperous industry, agriculture contributes more than $70 billion each year to Georgia’s economy. It also serves as the primary source of employment in the state, with at least one in seven people working in the fields of agriculture and environmental sciences. Agriculture obviously plays an important role in the state of Georgia, but how did it all start?
In 1773, when Georgia’s founder James Oglethorpe landed near Savannah to start the British colony of Georgia, he sought advice from Native Americans on how to hunt and grow food in the area. The Native Americans taught the colonists how to farm for corn, rice and other crops. The colonists quickly caught on to the production of such crops and began sending surpluses back to England. As farming continued to develop across the colony, the colony’s Trustees decided to establish a ten-acre experimental garden within the city of Savannah to facilitate research and introduce new productivity techniques for growers. This experimental garden, America’s first agricultural experiment station, began introducing new variations of crops — most importantly, cotton.
Cotton became King in the state of Georgia from the late 1700s to the early 1900s with the help of Eli Whitney’s famous cotton gin, invented about 10 miles outside of Savannah at the Mulberry Grove Plantation. Cotton transformed the state and brought more money to the region than ever before — that is, until the great boll weevil infestation of 1915. It would not be until the late 1980s that Georgia’s cotton industry recovered from its boll weevil problems; along the way, Georgia diversified in new forms of agricultural production like livestock, peanut farming and forestry. Despite dramatic change, Georgia remains one of the best places in America for agriculture.
Crucially, the state’s diverse climate can produce a wide variety of crops. Practically any form of crop or livestock can be grown somewhere in the state.
Though Georgia is known for its peaches and Vidalia onions, it produces the most peanuts, pecans and broilers in the country. Additionally, Georgia-grown watermelons, many forms of greens and corn rank among the nation’s best in quality and quantity.
The state of Georgia also remains one of the best places in the nation for agriculture due to research done at the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Design. UGA’s College of Agriculture is perennially ranked among the top ten agricultural schools in the United States and offers some of the finest and most useful research available to farmers. With a tool like the College of Agriculture, farmers can receive top-flight growing tips and information on practical farming techniques to benefit their farms and the state economy.
Agriculture is a key player in Georgia and will remain so for many years to come. Though it is often overlooked, the state of Georgia would look very different without its strong agricultural sector. So, next time you eat at a nice restaurant, have a barbeque or make yourself a PB&J, thank a farmer; your food is probably from Georgia.
—Russell Dye is a junior studying political science and horticulture
(Like what you see? Support THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE!)