A Guide to GeorGiA's FArms, Forests, Food And exports
Georgia's top industry plays an important role in the state's economy
SOWING THE SOUTH
The nexT generaTion culTivaTes Technology, educaTion and markeTing
Sponsored by the Georgia Department of Agriculture // 2012-13
The Georgia Federal-State Inspection Service began voluntary calls on peanuts with point-of-origin grading. The first mandatory inspection began in 1964 with a marketing order for shelled peanuts. The service continues to take samples and do inspection and grading of shelled peanuts at plants and of farmers stock peanuts at buying points across the state. The shellers keep an inspector in the plant to sample each lot of shelled goods. The lots are graded for quality and samples are sent to USDA approved labs for Aflatoxin analysis. Federal-State inspectors are at buying points to work to set the price that the farmer receives for his or her peanuts according to the grading guidelines set up by the federal government. One piece of information that may come as a surprise to many is that Federal-State wasn’t and still isn’t set up to grade only peanuts. FSIS inspects and conducts quality control on a wide range of agricultural commodities including nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, and some ornamentals. FSIS started in 1927 inspecting at destination points where products were to be sold, and shipping points were added later. At various times in the history of Federal-State, peaches and watermelons have been the main commodity of inspection. FSIS’s headquarters is in Albany. FSIS has district offices in Blakely, Bainbridge, Colquitt, Pelham, Moultrie, Tifton, Ashburn, Cordele, Fitzgerald, Vidalia and Millen reflecting the geographic distribution of the commodities FSIS inspects. All FSIS income is generated solely from fees paid for by the applicants, meaning that it operates without any tax or grant money from the state or federal governments. All equipment for the grading and inspecting of peanuts in the world comes out of FSIS’s Albany Office. Georgia is the number one state in the nation for the production of peanuts, as Georgia peanut farmers produce nearly half of America’s peanuts every year.
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9 a look inside 10 georgia agriculture overview 13 calendar of agriculture events
14 Poultry Powerhouse 20 shake and shell 26 go nuts
Modern technology pushes industry into the future Georgia is a top pecan-producing state Georgia’s peanut industry ranks first in the U.S. The commodity is Georgia’s No. 1 row crop
34 high cotton
A Guide to GeorGiA’s FArms, Forests, Food And exports
40 ripe and ready for Picking
Peaches and blueberries grow Georgia’s economy
46 vegging out
Vidalia onions and other vegetables boost Georgia’s economy
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GEORGIA GROWN 2012-13
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animals and Livestock
52 an industry Beefs up
High costs and drought challenge Georgia’s bovine business Processing plants provide certified meat for Georgia and other states
80 Port of call
as the country’s fastest growing port, Port of Savannah is a major player in global ag
58 The meat of the matter
connecting Farmers and consumers
66 home grown
Georgia Grown program promotes local products to connect farmers and consumers agritourism destinations showcase Georgia agriculture
consumer and Industry Services
86 Weighing in
Department of agriculture inspections ensure accuracy
90 Protecting the Food supply
72 visitors Welcome
The Department of agriculture inspects everything from grocery stores to farmers-market produce to ensure safety of food,animals and plants
Georgia’s Privately Owned Forests
Private timber growers and family tree farmers support thousands of Georgia jobs, a high-quality environment and unparalleled outdoor recreation. Forestry is the economic lifeblood of communities throughout our state, and forest products are the largest export from Georgia’s ports by volume. Strong markets for Georgia wood and fiber keep land in trees.
Forests. Georgia’s renewable resource.
aNimalS aND liveStocK
visit us online at
a looK iNSiDe
High costs, drought challenge Georgia’s bovine business
52 // georgia growN
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GAag ricult ure.c om
A Gui For de to Geo est s, Foo rGiA 's d And FAr exp ms, ort s
Geo play rgia's top s in the an imp indu stat ortantstry e's eco role nom y
SOWIN THE SO G UT
by the Georg
ia Depa rtmen
Techno The nex T gen logy, educaT eraTion ion t of Agric and culTiva Tes mar ulture keTing // 2012 -13
Fut Farm ure ers
The special tablet edition is designed especially for use on iPads and other tablet devices.
I want to welcome you to Georgia Grown, the first edition of our new guide to Georgia’s farms, forests, food and exports. From rabun Gap to Bainbridge, Waycross to Blue ridge, agriculture is part of every life in Georgia. While certainly evident that all Georgians do not live on farms, agriculture affects each and every citizen of the state. It is a $70 billion industry providing Georgians with more than 380,000 jobs across the state. Through this publication, I hope we can tell the story of agriculture to every Georgian and spread the importance of this industry. When I tell people Georgia agriculture generates $70 billion a year, most seem surprised. Few understand the economic scale and technological proficiency of today’s family farm. For a typical 2,000-acre diversified operation, capital is measured in millions; global positioning systems drive tractors; and genetic advancements in seeds reduce chemical usage. It is a bit surreal to think that 60 years ago there were more horses and mules than tractors on our farms. recognition of the quality and reliability of Georgia-based products and services continues to grow – both in domestic and international markets. Georgians, more and more, want to buy from other Georgians. our goal at the Georgia Department of agriculture is to increase the knowledge of the importance of this industry and build the connection between the grower, the supplier and the consumer. With this publication, we will be able to illustrate to every Georgian the significance of the number one industry in our state. I would like to personally thank all those who devoted their time, energy and resources to this process. Georgia Grown will allow Georgians to see the past, present and future of this thriving industry. Sincerely,
visit us online at
Gary W. Black Georgia Department of agriculture
a look at the state’s top industry
When it comes to its varieD
agriculture industry, Georgia is much more than just the Peach State. From the northern mountain region to the southern coastal plains, Georgia’s climate and landscape give farmers ample opportunity for growth. In virtually every part of the state, some form of agricultural production exists, its top commodities including broilers (chickens for meat), cotton, chicken eggs, greenhouse and nursery, and peanuts. Blueberries, pecans and peaches are also significant, widely grown crops. annually, the state’s farm gate value totals $12 billion. With just over 47,000 farms averaging 212 acres each, Georgia’s 10.2 million acres of farmland cover 28 percent of the state’s total acreage. Head to the southern region to find vast cotton fields and widespread peanut farms. Not only is cotton the No. 2 commodity in the state, Georgia ranked second nationally in acreage and production of cotton. The state also produces almost half the country’s peanuts. Georgia’s peanut industry alone accounted for more than 50,000 jobs in the state, while row and forage crops represented a $12.7 billion economic impact and provided more than 64,000 jobs. as a main employment provider, Georgia’s top industry plays a fundamental role in the state’s economy and is equally important to the country’s economy. In 2011, U.S. poultry exports jumped 19 percent, with Georgia shipping out more poultry than any other state in the nation. Justifying its top spot in commodity rankings, Georgia has consecutively led the U.S. in broiler production for the past 27 years. More than two-thirds of the state’s 159 counties are involved in poultry production, making it the most valuable sector in the industry. Georgia’s agricultural diversity expands beyond its top commodities. The state’s agritourism industry is on the rise, contributing $138 million to the state in 2011 alone. Georgians are also avid participants in the growing trend of buying local. Farmers markets are scattered across the state, and the newly relaunched Georgia Grown marketing program connects state growers with consumers seeking local products. combined with forestry and lumber products, ornamental horticulture, university industry research and more, these agricultural aspects contribute significant economic activity.
Poultry and eggs contributed
of georgia’s $12 billion farm gate total.
In nearly 2/3 of georgia’s counties, food and fiber production and processing represent the largest or second-largest segment of all goods and services produced.
IS THE OffIcIAl STATE frUIT.
Find more agriculture facts at gaagriculture.com.
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georgia’s deep-water ports and inland barge terminals support more than 352,000 jobs and contribute more than $66.9 billion to the state economy each year.
TO THE STATE’S EcONOmy. GEOrGIA HAS mOrE AcrES Of cOmmErcIAl fOrEST lAND (23.8 mIllION) THAN ANy OTHEr STATE.
fOrESTry cONTrIbUTES AlmOST
EGGS DUrING mAy 2012, Up 5% frOm mAy 2011.
GEOrGIA lAyING flOckS prODUcED
of georgia farms are family owned.
Georgia’s top ag exports include cotton, poultry, peanuts and wheat.
Calendar of eVeNTS
sunbelt ag expo georgia grown symposium georgia urban ag council edge expo se regional Fruit and vegetable conference Peanut Farm show georgia green industry association Wintergreen georgia young Farmers convention international Poultry expo ag Forecast
ATHENS (GEOrGIA cENTEr fOr cONTINUING EDUcATION) rOmE (GEOrGIA cENTEr fOr cONTINUING EDUcATION) mAcON (GEOrGIA fArm bUrEAU) TIfTON (UGA TIfTON cONfErENcE cENTEr) bAINbrIDGE (DEcATUr cOUNTy lIvESTOck cOmplEx) lyONS (TOOmbS cOUNTy AGrI-cENTEr) JANUAry 25, 2013 JANUAry 28, 2013 JANUAry 29, 2013 JANUAry 30, 2013 JANUAry 31, 2013 fEbrUAry 1, 2013 AprIl 25-27, 2013 SUmmEr 2013 JUNE 21-23, 2013 SEpTEmbEr 19-20, 2013 OcTObEr 3-13, 2013
OcTObEr 16-18, 2012 NOvEmbEr 8-9, 2012 DEcEmbEr 5-6, 2012 JANUAry 10-13, 2013 JANUAry 17, 2013 JANUAry 24-25, 2013 JANUAry 25-26, 2013 JANUAry 29-31, 2013
ga FFa state convention georgia grown Farmers market showcase state 4-h council 2013 georgia Peanut Tour georgia national Fair
For more information, visit gaagriculture.com
Modern technology pushes industry into future
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raising chickens for market on her Jefferson, Ga. farm in the mid-1940s, creating a business that now extends to the fourth generation of her family and provides a glimpse into how the poultry industry has helped position Georgia as one of the top agricultural states in the nation and first in poultry production. Poultry is Georgia’s largest agricultural segment, accounting for 47 percent of the state’s farm gate value. on an average day, Georgia produces 29 million pounds of chicken; poultry contributes an estimated $18.4 billion to the annual economy and generates 100,000 jobs. But in the 1940s, growing chickens for retail sale was just beginning. World War II created a demand for food, and innovative people in north Georgia like edrie campbell entered the business. “It was a lot different then,” says Brandon Boone, edrie’s greatgrandson. He and his father, John, share responsibilities for the operation of Boone Farms on that same land. “She, and then my grandfather, had three little houses, maybe 5,000
eDrie campbell starteD
Top: Brandon Boone (right), his father, John, and their family have been raising chickens on their farm in Jefferson for four generations. Bottom: An environmentally controlled poultry house on the Boones’ farm.
Brandon Boone and his father, John, raise 112,000 birds in their environmentally controlled, three-house operation in Jefferson.
to 10,000 birds and nothing electric, just a manual operation. My dad and I run a three-house operation, too, but we have 112,000 birds and each house is fully computerized and environmentally controlled.” The ability to control the temperature in the houses is a key advancement in the poultry industry. Not that many years ago a serious heat wave would have caused significant losses, and Boone remembers hearing his grandfather’s stories of building a fire in the poultry houses to keep the new chicks warm enough during extreme winter temperatures. Thanks to research at the University of Georgia, tunnel ventilation and cooling cells changed the nature of the industry and highlighted the importance of the partnership between the state’s university system and its agricultural industry. “We can maintain temperature within a degree or two from the front to the back of the houses,” Boone says, noting he and his father can monitor temperature changes through applications on their cell
phones and make adjustments remotely when necessary. even on Georgia’s hottest summer days, the combination of evaporative cooling and wind chill in modern tunnelventilated broiler houses keeps the temperature the chickens feel in the mid 70s. “The bottom line is that the birds need to eat and grow,” Boone says. “The nutritional research at the University of Georgia is helping us achieve that goal with less feed in less time. Where it used to take my great-grandmother up to 12 weeks to get birds to market weight, we’re getting there in about half the time.” Boone Farms is part of Georgia’s market-driven, vertically integrated poultry industry. The Boones own the land and houses and contract with poultry processors to provide the chickens, which are then marketed to restaurants, grocery stores and food-service providers. The success of Boone Farms mirrors the success of many of Georgia’s family farms, says Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation and the state’s
leading expert on the history of the industry in Georgia. “We’ve seen a lot of growth over the years,” Giles says. By 1960, Georgia was producing about 300,000 broilers, a number that is up to 1.4 billion annually today. He credits the state’s university system, including UGa and Georgia Tech, with advancements in the industry as well as historically strong support from the Georgia General assembly. at the same time, poultry companies have achieved significant innovations over the years that have made the industry more efficient and productive, while providing a safer product for consumers. Giles says the industry’s growth is also tied to its success in developing new products, thus increasing the appetite for poultry. In the early 1960s, whole chickens accounted for 90 percent of the birds sold to consumers. With more than 3,000 chicken products available in grocery stores today, whole birds account for about 10 percent of sales. What was once a north Georgia industry has now spread throughout
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Georgia Poultry Federation President Emeritus Abit Massey (left) and current President Mike Giles in Gainesville.
the state, with more than 105 counties producing more than $1 million in poultry at the farm level. “It’s no stretch to say that Georgia is a world leader in the poultry industry,” says abit Massey, former president of the Georgia Poultry Federation, noting that if Georgia was a country it would rank seventh in poultry production. People from all over the world recognize the state’s leadership in the industry. The state hosts the annual International Poultry expo, which is the world’s largest display of technology, equipment supplies and services used in the production and processing of poultry and eggs and manufacturing feed.
Poultry is serious business in Georgia, but Massey says there is room for a chuckle about the state’s love for chicken. In Gainesville, Ga., which has laid claim to the title Poultry capital of the World, a statue of a rooster serves as a monument to the industry, and the city hosts an annual chicken Festival that serves 4,000 pounds of the deepfried delicacy. If you go to the festival or eat at any restaurant in the city, Massey says beware of what he describes as a “tongue-inbeak” law making it illegal to eat fried chicken in any way other than with fingers. No forks allowed. —Kim Madlom
Right on Track
n the 1960s, Georgia’s poultry industry began to experience rapid growth. Farmers were building houses, buying birds and trying to enter a market with excellent potential, but chickens need feed to grow and feed was expensive and sometimes hard to get. Georgia couldn’t grow enough corn and soybeans to keep the increasing number of chickens fed, so the state’s farmers looked toward the Midwest for rail shipments. “Making sure there was an adequate supply of feedstock was critical to the development of the industry,” says Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation. The old boxcars in use by the railroads at the time were leaky and weevil-infested, causing losses en route. and rates were artificially high due to the capacity of the cars, the cost of unloading and a twostage shipping process. as a result, grain had all but disappeared from the rails and was transported instead via barges along the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers. The answer: hopper cars, also known as Big John cars. The aluminum covered cars developed by Southern railway System revolutionized the way feedstock was transported to the South. The leader in development of the innovative cars was famed railroad leader D.W. Bronsan, a Georgian himself and a graduate of Georgia Tech. Bronsan had a keen interest in promoting Georgia industry, specifically its agribusiness. “The hopper car was the key development that helped Georgia poultry growers feed their chickens
Big John hopper cars reduced poultry’s grain costs
efficiently so the industry could grow to the size it is today,” Giles says. Bronsan’s hopper cars allowed Southern to haul as much grain in five big cars as was being hauled in 25 boxcars, which dramatically reduced the freight charges and, therefore, the cost of the grain. The cost of hauling grain from St. Louis to Gainesville, Ga., for example, dropped from $10.50 to $4.17 per ton in the five-car lots. abit Massey, a former president of the Georgia Poultry Federation and a national leader in the industry, remembers when the hopper cars were unveiled. “The Federation worked with Southern railway on this effort,” Massey says. “We circulated petitions and attended hearings to help get approval from the Interstate commerce commission to allow Southern to cut rail rates.” Following a lengthy court challenge from the barge industry, Southern won its case to reduce rates as a result of the hopper cars. By the mid-1960s, the poultry industry was predicted to experience a $2 billion expansion. Transportation is also the key to the future growth of the poultry
industry, Massey and Giles say. “We’ve had a rich history in the industry, but I also think we have an exciting future,” Massey says. “We are the hub of the Southeast for exports, and Georgia is home to the Savannah port. That’s going to make a big difference as we move forward.” Giles agrees. “Savannah is the leading port in the nation in terms of poultry exports and Georgia is the largest poultry producer in the nation, which gives our state a strategic advantage,” Giles says. “at least 20 percent of the poultry produced in the United States is exported, and there is tremendous growth potential in that market as world economies grow. “our industry is positioned from a logistics standpoint to take advantage of the export opportunities ahead. We can produce high-quality poultry products here in Georgia, get those products loaded into containers and delivered to the port quickly and out on ships to be delivered to the rest of the world. We have good days ahead for Georgia’s poultry industry.” —Kim Madlom
Photo Courtesy of southern MuseuM: southern r a i lway h i s t o r i C a l a s s o C i at i o n C o l l e C t i o n
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Georgia is the top producer of pecans
Southern hospitality quite like a homemade pecan pie – and no place grows more of the tasty nut that goes into that sweet treat than Georgia. each year, 1,000 farmers grow nearly 100 million pounds of pecans on more than 400,000 acres of Georgia farmland, which translates to between $250 and $300 million in farm gate value annually. That’s one small nut making one big difference in the agricultural economy of the state. Greg Leger has been in the pecan business all his life, working first with his father and now overseeing the production of 275 acres of pecan
there’s nothing that says
Whole loT oF shakin’ goin’ on
trees in cordele. Some are newly planted, while others are more than 60 years old. Leger explains that it’s important to have trees of varying ages because older pecan trees tend to have less consistent production. “The industry is beginning to understand that older, larger trees have to exert themselves much more, so they tend to alternate bear, with a heavy crop one year followed by a lesser crop the next,” says Leger. To manage that variability, Leger selectively plants new trees, which will not produce pecans for six to seven years. However, by the time the trees are 15 to 20 years old, they could be producing about 100 pounds of pecans each, he says. That’s a lot of pecan pies.
From the budding of the pecan trees in May through the end of the growing season in September, Leger tends to the proper watering, fertilization and pest management of the orchards. In october, the harvest begins. You don’t pick pecans from the trees, explains Leger. You shake them out. “We’ll get 40 to 50 percent of the pecans out of the trees with mechanical tree shakers. Then, later, when most of the foliage is off the trees, we’ll come back and shake them again because the mechanical shakers don’t work as well with all the leaves on.” This two-part process allows the grower to get the benefits of early market prices that tend to be higher. It can take Leger two weeks to harvest all his acres on the first pass. Then he’ll wait two to three weeks before taking the second pass to complete the harvest. Leger also cleans the pecans, packs them in big supersacks and then sells them to brokers. His operation doesn’t include shelling the pecans. “Shelling is a much different game,” says Leger. “You have to have a lot of volume to make it financially beneficial to shell.”
22 // GeorGIa GroWN
Greg Leger (above) sprays his pecan trees at Leger & Son pecan farm in Cordele. Georgia ranks first in pecan production in the U.S. and grows nearly 100 million pounds of pecans each year.
That’s where the 10 shellers in the state come in. Before 1920, consumers removed the shells themselves by hand after they bought the pecans. But with the development of commercial shelling equipment, pecan-lovers could put away their nutcrackers. according to the National Pecan Shellers association, since the 1950s more than 80 percent of pecans have been sold with the shell removed. Large pecan plants can have as many as 14 cracking machines with a capacity of 150,000 pounds a day and 30 million pounds each season. Some shelling plants operate all year, while others operate only during the fall harvest season. after the pecans are shelled, they are packed in cans, jars or bags to protect them from humidity, light and other factors. They are shipped to retail, food-service or commercial markets.
recent research on the nutritional benefits of pecans has increased their popularity with the consumer. That research shows pecans to be a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering, nutrient-dense snack and a great natural source of fiber, protein and antioxidants. The american consumer isn’t the only one recognizing the taste and nutritional value of the pecan. The export market is growing as well, especially for pecans that remain in the shell. china is a big buyer of Georgia pecans, as are several other asian countries. according to the Georgia Pecan Growers association, nearly one-third of the pecan crop was exported in 2011 and nearly half the crop produced the year before. —Cathy Lockman
exPorTing TasTe and nuTriTion
Tree Nut in Antioxidants
Healthy & Nutritious Certified by the American Heart Association
Georgia soil is sandy and acidic, the perfect environment for growing blueberries! Georgia has one of the longest harvest seasons in North America. Georgia’s two most common blueberry varieties are Highbush and Rabbiteye. Georgia’s short winters give the berries the right amount of chill and warm spring and summer temperatures help produce delicious Sweet Georgia Blues!
24 // GeorGIa GroWN
STUDIES HAvE SHOWN WOmEN ArE
lESS lIkEly TO HAvE HEArT TrOUblE If THEy EAT NUTS mOrE THAN TWIcE A WEEk.
GEOrGIA pEcANS: THE ANTIOxINUT
Pecans rank among the top 20 foods for antioxidant capacity and have the highest amount of antioxidants of nuts, including walnuts and almonds. The antioxidants found in pecans are believed to help prevent disease-causing oxidation in cells that has been linked to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Pecans made up 51.9 percent of the $451 million the fruit and nut industry contributed to the Georgia economy last year.
ArE A GOOD SOUrcE Of OlEIc AcID, vITAmIN b1, THIAmIN, mAGNESIUm AND prOTEIN AND ArE NATUrAlly GlUTEN frEE.
Source: georgiapecansfit.org, Ag Snapshots from University of Georgia College of Ag and Environmental Sciences
pounds, up 36 percent from 2010.
in 2011, georgia’s pecan production totaled
one ounce of pecans contains 196 calories, 2.7 grams of dietary fiber and more than 19 vitamins and minerals, including vitamins a, e, calcium, potassium and zinc.
T.e. and evera moye (right) stand with their son-in-law richard squires and daughter molly moye squires, along with their grandchildren ella grace (front right) and abigail, in one of their peanut fields in newton. The peanut is among georgia’s top commodities.
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Georgia’s peanut industry ranks first in the U.S.
for the small but mighty peanut. The nut is one of the state’s “Three Ps” – peanuts, pecans and poultry – with more than $400 million logged in peanut cash receipts in 2011 in the largest land area east of the Mississippi, according to USDa’s National agricultural Statistic Service’s Georgia field office. No one is prouder to lay claim to Georgia’s peanut notoriety than peanut producer T.e. Moye of Newton. a native Georgian, Moye and his family farm 1,800 acres, some of which have been in his mother’s family and his wife’s mother’s family since the Homestead act allowed his family to stake a claim in 1839. The farm employs one part-time and four full-time employees. While their operation includes peanuts, corn, cotton, soybeans and a 200-head beef cow herd, Moye is especially happy with the crop rotation he’s developed to increase his peanut yield. “We try to put three crops between a peanut crop,” Moye says. “We’ll plant peanuts one year, cotton the second, corn the third and a forage crop the fourth. We’ve found that rotating in that order decreases disease and increases peanut yields tremendously. We were pleased when our farm was recognized with the Southeastern Peanut Profitability award in 2009.”
georgians can be prouD their state ranks First in u.s. proDuction
T.E. and Evera Moye’s 1,800-acre farm includes some land that has been in the family since 1839. Today, they plant peanuts every four years, rotating the crop with cotton, corn and forage crops in order to reduce disease and increase peanut yields.
Georgia grows half the peanuts produced in the nation, and peanuts are the fifth top commodity produced in the state. “The economic impact to our state just from peanuts is tremendous,” Moye says. “Peanuts will generate $840 million of income for Georgia farmers in 2012, based on the peanuts planted and assuming we will be able to harvest them. That will generate three times the income for the state’s economy as farmers spend their money, which equals $2.5 billion for the Georgia economy.” “Without the peanut industry, all the jobs that are generated by it would be affected,” he explains.
PeanuTs BoosT georgia’s economic healTh
“From the tractor driver to the chemical salesman to the peanut mill worker to the candy company that buys peanuts to make a Snickers bar, the trickle down impacts people. The retailers who sell farmers’ furniture to the clothing store that sells new clothes to the peanut mill workers’ children, there would be a huge negative economic impact on our state and citizens without the peanut commerce.” The Georgia Peanut commission reports about 70 Georgia counties produced nearly 2 billion pounds of peanuts in 2010. Fourteen thousand farms producing peanuts and about 4,500 active farmers help support approximately 200 peanut-related businesses contributing to more than 50,000 jobs in the state.
Georgia produces of U.S. peanuts.
georgia’s peanut industry contributes more than
jobs in the state.
left: T.E. Moye’s granddaughters, Abigail (front) and Ella Grace, play on a tractor. right: Moye’s flowering peanut plants.
lmc is World’s largesT PeanuT Processor
Seventy-year-old LMc Manufacturing in Donalsonville wears the title of world leader in the peanut shelling process very well. The company’s longstanding equipment vitality is responsible for shelling 90 percent of the commercial peanut market. originally the H.M. carter Manufacturing company, “Home of the Famous ‘carter’ Peanut Shellers,” LMc produces peanut shelling, sizing and blanching systems, including buying point operation systems. They also create processing structures for industries such as tree nuts, seed and grain, beans, and recycling and rubber. “We can custom design, build, deliver and install a complete peanut processing operation to customer’s specifications,” says Marcus carter,
sales manager. “For example, we manufacture equipment that processes peanuts into peanut butter and other confectionaries. our products are made by dedicated and hardworking employees who are encouraged and empowered to make decisions, and who enjoy working in a family atmosphere.” LMc’s equipment is recognized globally. companies in industrialized nations including South and central americas, australia, the Middle east and europe are all customers of LMc. “We are grateful for our worldwide base and the impact the business has for our home state,” carter says. “We’re all about helping get the grown product out of the field and into an edible form.” america enjoys an abundant, and most importantly, a safe food supply,
imPorTance oF agriculTure
and neither of those is by accident, Moye says. “The standard that american farmers must meet has been set very high and we, as farmers, are proud of the quality products we produce.” Moye, his family, and their employees believe in the nutritious and economical value of peanuts as a staple food. “We support organizations like Peanut Proud that supplies peanut butter and mana (a peanut-based nutritional supplement) to starving children in undeveloped countries.” “I want our leaders and the public in general to understand the necessity of the Georgia farmer, the importance of agriculture, and the economic impact of the whole agricultural economy on our state,” Moye says. —Susan Hayhurst
Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter
Perry, Georgia I-75 at Exits 134 & 135 478.987.3247 800.987.3247 (Georgia only) www.gnfa.com www.georgianationalfair.com ■ Fairgrounds designed and built for Georgia’s youth and agriculture, state-of-the-art facilities ■ Livestock/equine facilities: barns, conditioned show rings, practice rings, RV hookups ■ Home of the award-winning Georgia National Fair
Money Grows on Trees
Georgia-grown forests mean big bucks
eorgia contains the largest area of forest cover of any state in the South, with forests making up 67 percent of land cover or 24.8 million acres, according to a 2011 Forest Inventory analysis released by the USDa Forest Service Southern research Station. While this land area remains stable, timber inventory has increased. of these 24.8 million acres, 98 percent or 24.4 million acres are available for commercial use – more than any other state in the nation. The remaining 2 percent of forest area is in forest reserves where harvest is prohibited. Most of commercial timberland is privately owned, placing Georgia in the
Photo Courtesy of ChuCk Bargeron, university of georgia, Bugwood.org
position of having the most privately owned timberland in the nation. The forest industry provides an average of $448 million in state tax revenues each year, and a recent University of Georgia study of essential ecosystem services provided by forests – including clean water, carbon storage, wildlife habitat and aesthetics – are worth an estimated $37 billion annually. This is in addition to the value of timber, forest products and recreation. More than 108,000 Georgians work in forestry-related jobs. outside of the traditional forest industries such as lumber, pulp and paper, Georgia forests are capable of providing a variety of additional opportunities for the
state. one of the most profound opportunities lies with the emerging bioenergy industry, of which Georgia is considered a leader. Forbes magazine ranked Georgia third in the nation for potential biomass energy as measured by the amount of biomass available in the state. Bioenergy projects in Georgia have the potential to add thousands of additional jobs within the new facilities and forestry operations to support them. The marketing of Georgia’s traditional forest products and developing new bioenergy products will increase the value of forests and encourage reforestation and good management practices.
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The commodity is Georgia’s No. 1 row crop
georgia cotton farmers produce 2.2 million bales of cotton every year, enough to rank cotton as the No. 2 commodity in the state. and as for those favorite jeans, it takes 24 ounces of cotton to make one pair. chuck coley of vienna takes his cotton seriously. He’s chair of the National cotton council and has been a cotton farmer all his life. He’s proud that georgia is second in the nation in cotton production, just behind texas. “i think cotton production gets in your blood,” coley says. “there’s a lot of good people in the industry. in my operation, we raise two crops – cotton and peanuts – and we always will.”
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Like a well-worn pair of jeans, cotton production has had a few rips in its lifetime. The crop’s history in the state hasn’t been without some hardships. “Back in the early ’20s and ’30s, Georgia farmers planted over 5 million acres,” coley says. “Then came the boll weevil, and cotton production nearly left Georgia.” The arrival of the pest, which feeds on cotton buds and flowers, devastated the cotton crop in the state. To recover, Georgia farmers started raising more traditional Midwestern crops like corn, soybeans and wheat. It took until the early 1980s, when scientists came up with the tools to eradicate the pesky boll weevil that cotton production began to return as a major crop in the state. Thanks to the Boll Weevil eradication Program, none of the beetles have been found in the state since 2002. around the same time, cotton plants were engineered to be resistant to pests. “We used to have to spray our crop 18 to 20 times a year,” coley says of keeping insects off the crop. “Now with our GMo plants, we may spray two times at the most.”
Bundles of cotton after ginning at Coley Gin in Vienna.
In 2011, cotton retained its position as one of the leading cash row crops in Georgia, with production of 2.2 million bales of cotton on 1.33 million planted acres. coley begins harvesting his 1,500-acre crop in late September, the bulk of it finished in october or November. “Georgia is fortunate to have cotton back as a major crop,” coley says. “Because cotton is a highly intensive crop, it’s very good for the local economies. cotton creates
changes For The indusTry
GEOrGIA WAS rANkED 2ND IN THE NATION IN cOTTON AcrEAGE AND prODUcTION IN 2011.
georgia’s cotton industry’s farm gate value exceeded
1.495 million acres – In 2011,
Georgia harvested 1.495 million acres of cotton. The average pounds per acre was 791.
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more jobs – from the gin to the warehouse to retail stores – than any other crop. For Georgia farmers like coley, the outlook for raising cotton isn’t all that positive, but coley expects it to improve with time. Worldwide there’s more cotton than needed, and the carryover puts a damper on prices. Both India and china had good cotton crops in 2011. at the same time, consumer demand worldwide dropped as the economy slowed. “Prices aren’t so good for cotton compared to the value of corn or soybeans or wheat,” coley says. “But prices will come back – they always do.” as for coley, he’ll not only be raising cotton, but wearing it. “I try to wear cotton most of the time – khakis and a plaid cotton shirt.” —Charlyn Fargo
The FuTure oF coTTon
Find more cotton facts at gaagriculture.com
clockwise from top left: Cotton gins at Coley Gin in Vienna; Cotton sits in a warehouse at Coley Gin; Chuck Coley, chair of the National Cotton Council, stands among cotton plants on his farm in Vienna.
Peaches and blueberries grow Georgia’s economy
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Workers pick peaches at Dickey Farms in Musella. Peaches are Georgia’s official state fruit, and 130 million pounds are grown in the state each year.
peach or a handful of sweet blueberries, Georgia fruit means big taste. It also means big business. With nearly 58 million pounds of blueberries and 130 million pounds of peaches grown each year in the state, these fruits pack an economic punch. In fact, with a total farm gate value of more than $133 million, blueberries are responsible for nearly 30 percent of the value of all fruits and nuts grown in Georgia. at $47 million, peaches represent more than 10 percent. The economic value of both fruits is tied to their strong nutritional value. consumers are increasingly looking for delicious, low-calorie ways to stay healthy, and blueberries and peaches provide it. Both are a simple, tasty, natural way to get the health benefits of antioxidants and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
Whether it’s a juicy, ripe
at Dickey Farms, visitors can sit in a rocker on the porch of a historic building and enjoy a nutritious, mouth-watering peach or some of the farm’s famous peach ice cream. From that same rocker, they can watch thousands of freshly picked peaches make their way through t he packinghouse operation. It’s a peaceful setting, but it’s also a bustling business. “My grandfather planted the first peach tree in 1897, and I started tagging along with him when I was 4 or 5 years old,” says robert Dickey II, also known as “Mr. Bob.” Today, that business consists of 1,000 acres of peaches as well as the state’s oldest, continuously operating peach packinghouse. Dickey, his son, robert III, and daughter-in-law, cynde, grow 25 varieties of peaches, operate the packinghouse and retail and mail-order business, and employ more than 100 workers at the height of the season.
The Peach sTaTe
pounds of blueberries were produced in georgia in 2011.
Georgia’s fruit and nut industry contributes 13,000 jobs and $2 billion to the state annually.
Workers separate peaches for packaging at Dickey Farms in Musella. Dickey Farms boasts 1,000 acres of peaches and Georgia’s oldest, continuously operating packinghouse.
Mr. Bob explains that they pick the peaches by hand, bring them in from the orchards and then run them through a hydro-cooler, essentially an ice-water bath that lowers the temperature of the peach to retard the ripening process so the fruit won’t be overripe when it reaches the consumer. Next, the peaches go through several graders that remove leaves and cull the least desirable fruit. The remaining peaches are sorted by an electric sizer, packed and shipped to arrive in stores within three days of picking. Managing the production of the peaches also means tending the orchards. each year trees must be pruned, fertilized and monitored for pests. “The rule of thumb is that the life of a peach tree is about 15 years,” says Mr. Bob. “In the first two years of planting a new tree, you won’t have peaches. In the third year, you’ll get
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From left: Georgia State Rep. Robert Dickey III (left) and his father, Robert Dickey II, known as “Mr. Bob,” are third- and fourth-generation peach farmers; Joe Cornelius of J&B Blueberry Farms in Manor holds fresh blueberries; Cornelius (right), his son Jason and grandson Jackson survey blueberry plants on their farm.
some. The trees bear the most fruit in years 4 to 15.” What makes Georgia a great place to grow those peach trees? robert says the climate in middle Georgia is ideal. “We get the adequate number of cold hours needed, and most years we are free from spring frosts,” he says. Georgia peaches are also in season earlier than those grown in the north. “Georgia is the third-largest producer in the country,” he notes. “We have an advantage because we’re the first in getting peaches to market compared to states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.” robert also says that the long, proud history of multi-generational peach farms in the state is another key to success. “The growing and management expertise has been passed down, and so has the love for the farm and the
work. It’s a business that’s in our blood.” While blueberry production in Georgia is relatively young, if production numbers in the past decade are any indication, the industry is poised to establish its own long and strong tradition. Joe cornelius, president of J&B Blueberry Farms in Manor, was an early adopter, planting 60 acres of blueberries in 1989 when total blueberry acreage in Georgia was about 3,000 to 4,000. Today, cornelius farms 170 acres of blueberries, and Georgia has onethird of the total U.S. acreage of blueberries, with nearly 22,000 acres of the fruit growing across the state. “Just ten years ago, we were producing 18 million pounds of blueberries,” says cornelius, who also serves as chairman of the
sWeeT georgia Blue
Georgia Blueberry commission. “Now we’re over 60 millions pounds. In the next five years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the state go over 100 million pounds.” cornelius says that research showing the health benefits of antioxidants in blueberries has increased demand, and Georgia farmers are rising to the challenge of producing the increasingly popular fruit. “our soil is conducive for farming blueberries. Plus, our climate and the varieties we grow provide us with a very long production season, starting in mid-april with Highbush and going until the end of July with the rabbiteye varieties. That certainly is a competitive advantage and what has established Georgia as the third-largest blueberry producer in the country in 2011.” —Cathy Lockman
Research Bears Fruit
n the 35 years since Danny Stanaland came to southeastern Georgia, the acreage of blueberries grown in the state has increased from 150 to nearly 22,000. It’s a blueberry bounty that has made a significant economic impact on the agricultural community in the state. But according to Stanaland, a former Bacon county extension coordinator and now a University of Georgia blueberry agent, the growing number of acres also increases the number of challenges facing the farmer. assessing and addressing those challenges means “being on the cutting edge of research, so that the farmers can be successful and can make a profit,” says Stanaland. That’s where the Blueberry research and Demonstration Farm in alma comes in. The 17-acre farm includes Highbush blueberries in rows and beds and young and old rabbiteye bushes. “our goal is to mimic what farmers in the area plant, so that the research is directly applicable to their operation,” says Stanaland. “We conduct pruning studies. We evaluate insecticides to see which give the best control and what timing is most effective. We put in test plots to see what chemicals might provide potential relief from different diseases. It’s also important for us to plant the new varieties being developed. That way we can see how they grow, when they bloom, how they set fruit and the quality of that fruit. We encourage farmers to come by and see these new plants so they can decide if they want to grow them.” according to Joe cornelius, president of J & B Blueberry Farms in Manor, such research in breeding and production keeps Georgia
farmers at the forefront of the industry. “It used to take four to five years from planting the bush to bearing fruit,” says cornelius. “But new fertilizing and pruning techniques developed through research have shortened that to just two to three years now.” advances in plant breeding are also paying dividends. The development of the Southern Highbush variety, for instance, provides growers with a plant that can be harvested in april and May instead of the traditional harvest period of rabbiteye in June and July. Not only does that extend the season, the early harvest also means higher prices for the farmer who has berries to sell when the fruit is in short supply. other initiatives include
alternatives to hand harvesting, which is expensive and time consuming. That can come in the form of mechanical advances or breeding breakthroughs, which produce varieties with thicker skins that don’t require hand picking. Stanaland also credits the work of several Georgia experts in breeding, plant pathology and entomology for the many advances made over the past decade and expects that expertise to continue to benefit the state’s blueberry farmers in the years to come. “Such efforts allow us to be prepared to offer the farmer useful advice for growing their blueberries each year,” he says. —Cathy Lockman
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Vidalias and vegetables boost Georgia’s economy
much oF georgia’s climate
and soil favors vegetable production, as evidenced by its top-five state ranking. Vegetables earn a noticeable space on the pie chart for Georgia’s most valuable agriculture products, ahead of forestry, fruits and nuts. The state’s own Vidalia onion takes the biggest slice of the veggie pie accounting for nearly 19 percent of the state’s vegetable value. The trademarked sweet onion is consumed across the country, but grows exclusively in the sandy loam soils of 20 Georgia counties. “It’s just unique because the Vidalia onion is such a large industry with a big economic impact on the state of Georgia, especially in the growing area that it’s in,” says aries Haygood, general manager of M&T Farms, which grows Vidalia onions, watermelon and pecans in Lyons. “What better way to show homegrown and locally grown than being from the state of Georgia? Folks who enjoy the onion can actually see it being harvested, grown and processed, all of the above.” The production and processing of vegetables in Georgia generated a total economic impact of $2.3 billion and accounted for more than 15,000 jobs in 2011, according to the University of Georgia. With its mild winters and irrigation access, south Georgia produces vegetables yearround, from Vidalia onions in winter to watermelons in summer. Northeast Georgia produces a small but significant vegetable crop, dominated by cabbage, collard,
sweet corn, tomato and pumpkin, the university reports. Nationwide, Georgia ranks second in spring onion production and third in cucumbers, sweet corn and watermelon, according to the National agricultural Statistics Service. The state also ranks fourth in snap beans and fifth in bell peppers. The Vidalia onion, Georgia’s most valuable vegetable, possesses a farm gate value of around $150 million annually, says Wendy Brannen, executive director of the Vidalia onion committee. “We’re always among the top vegetable money-makers for the state of Georgia,” she says.
Top: Aries Haygood manages M&T Farms in Lyons, which grows Vidalia onions, watermelon and pecans. Bottom: Locally grown peppers at the State Farmers Market in Forest Park.
The Vidalia, dubbed “america’s favorite sweet onion,” started as a fluke. Georgia farmers in the 1930s planted onions as an alternative income source. To their surprise, the onions tasted mild. Word of mouth praised the onion, which increased in production in the late 1970s. Farmers eventually banded together to define the onion’s
The vidalia onion: a sWeeT accidenT
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characteristics, trademark it and begin national distribution. By 1990, the Vidalia onion became the official state vegetable. “We are the pioneer sweet onion,” Brannen says. “We are the first to actually produce and market a sweet onion on any substantial level.” Today, about 100 registered farmers and packers in a defined 20-county region grow and market the sweet onions, she says. The area includes a hub around the town of Vidalia in the middle of state. Farmers grow an average 12,000 acres of onions per year that require a seasonal workforce to plant and harvest by hand. They generally produce between 4 and 5 million 40-pound units of Vidalia onions per year, Brannen says. M&T Farms in Lyons raises about 42 million Vidalia onions annually on 500 acres. The vegetable grows for eight months. The onions start in concentrated seed beds in the fall, and by December workers transplant them at a rate of 85,000 plants per acre. For six months, Haygood monitors plant health, disease and insect pressures, nutrient uptake and water needs. Ironically, the onion’s biggest advantages and challenges lie in the weather. Georgia’s naturally moist environment, while ideal for vegetables, also favors disease. Harvest occurs in late april and May. onions generally require one laborer per 10 acres in the field and one per four acres in a farm’s packaging facility, Haygood says. M&T Farms often has 75 to 150 people in its sheds, where onions cure in special rooms. Workers then sort the onions by size and quality and place them in packages that will be shipped with the Vidalia and farm names. The onion’s shelf life keeps it predominantly a domestic product. The Vidalia onion blankets the United States, with around 5 percent shipped into canada, Brannen says. Sales of consumer packs, or packages of medium-size onions, have shown new growth. —Joanie Stiers
onion liFe cycle
Georgia’s state vegetable is the Vidalia onion, and the state produces about 12,000 acres each year.
Proclaimed the official state vegetable in 1990, the Vidalia is a sweet onion consumed across the U.S., but it grows exclusively in the sandy loam soils of 20 Georgia counties. About 100 registered farmers and packers produce an average of 12,000 acres of Vidalia onions per year – that’s between 4 and 5 million 40-pound units of onions.
Georgia ranks third in the U.S. in the production of cucumbers, a summer vine crop that shares a family with squash, zucchini and melons. The production and processing of vegetables in the state generated a total economic impact of $2.3 billion and accounted for more than 15,000 jobs in 2010.
While often considered a fruit, watermelons are actually counted as a vegetable when determining their impact on Georgia’s agriculture economy. Watermelons contributed 13 percent of the state’s vegetable farm gate value in 2010. Georgia ranks third in the U.S. in the production of watermelons.
Georgia Soybean Commodity Commission
Farmers Putting Soybean Checkoff Dollars to Work for You.
Projects funded in 2012 Development of Soybean Varieties with Herbicide and Pest Resistance that Produce Superior Meal for Poultry Management of Kudzu Bug in Soybeans Evaluation of Georgia Soybean Cultivars for Metribuzin Herbicides Support of Georgia Soybean Rust Sentinel Plots Monitoring Soybeans Response to Diurion Herbicide The 2012 Soybean Production Guide Glen Waller, Chairman
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To Market, to Market
Georgia farmers markets cater to their communities
eed a watermelon at 2 a.m.? There’s a Georgia farmers market that’s still open and ready to accommodate. “our atlanta State Farmers Market is open 24/7, 364 days a year,” says Jack Spruill, director of the Marketing Division for the Georgia Department of agriculture. “We only close the gates on christmas Day.” These markets, however, aren’t your typical side-of-the-road produce stands. The atlanta Market spans 158 acres and is considered one of the largest of its kind in the world. “Georgia state farmers markets are very unusual,” Spruill says. “We have nine in the state – there used to be 31. They’re the property of the Georgia Department of agriculture. and we have a totally different perspective on farmers markets than a local market on the downtown square or a market operated by the local extension office.” Gerogia State Farmers Markets – with locations in atlanta, augusta, cairo, cordele, Macon, Moultrie, Savannah, Thomasville and Valdosta – are actually small business incubators, helping small businesses become larger, Spruill says. State farmers markets have all gone through a transformation and change from their original purpose at their inception. all have evolved into facilities that best fill the needs of their individual location and community. Some of the state-owned farmers markets, like atlanta’s, focus primarily on wholesale, supplying produce to restaurants and grocery stores. others trend more toward retail marketing or a packing shed type of market.
The markets have become tourist attraction as well. “We are trying to revitalize the farmer presence,” Spruill says. “We’ve always been farmer-friendly, but we’re battling a perception that some state markets are only wholesale distribution points.” Because of that, the Department of agriculture recently instituted farmer showcase events to bring farmers closer to consumers. Larry Grier of atlanta is one of the farmers that participates in the atlanta Farmers Market, selling both wholesale and retail. He raises all kinds of peas, watermelon and sweet corn. “I used to plant peanuts, but I gave that up several years ago,” Grier says. “This is much more labor intensive, but it doesn’t cost as much for inputs, so it’s better.” His black-eyed and pink-eyed peas are the most popular. “I try to
raise what people want,” he says. “I do some organic. Most of the time I sell to a lot of grocery stores, but I sell the same price to everyone – consumers or stores.” Vegetables purchased at chain grocery stores or consumed in restaurants in Metro atlanta are 90 percent likely to be somehow connected or touched directly by the atlanta Farmers Market. “The San Joaquin Valley in california should not be the breadbasket of Georgia,” Spruill says. Both railway and truck freight delivery service the atlanta market. “It’s huge business,” Spruill says. “Today, the atlanta market is 100 percent of occupancy within the wholesale venue. There are pressures for expansion of the facility, and we are in the midst of a comprehensive engineering study, to determine our best options for the future.”
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High costs, drought challenge Georgia’s bovine business
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one might say georgia’s
beef calf values have beefed up in recent years – now 40 percent more valuable than five years ago. Yet high expenses, drought conditions and other influences soften farm profits and create challenges for the state’s No. 6 commodity. “I don’t doubt that we’re getting a lot more for our end product,” says evans Hooks, who operates a diversified cattle farm in southeastern Georgia. “But when you start looking at the cost of production – whether that be feed, fertilizer, equipment, fencing or labor – I don’t know that we’re keeping up as fast with our production costs.” Beef cattle, raised in all of Georgia’s counties, are arguably the state’s most broad-based agricultural commodity. The Georgia beef industry’s farm gate
value exceeded $406.7 million in 2011, according to the University of Georgia. That value increased significantly with cattle values in 2012, which beat even 2011 by 18 percent, says curt Lacy, extension livestock economist with the University of Georgia. Stable demand and shorter supplies account for U.S. beef’s historically high values. Georgia follows the trend. The state’s farmers owned 512,000 head of beef cattle at the start of 2012, according to the National agricultural Statistics Service. The 2012 beef cow inventory ticked upward 2 percent from 2011, but fell 14 percent in five years. The causes: drought, high feed prices, retiring cattlemen and high crop values. Farmers may generate more profit from an acre of crops than pasture, Lacy says. Intermittent drought conditions in Georgia for the last four or five
years put feed stocks and grasses in short supply, says Josh White, executive vice president of the Georgia cattlemen’s association. This forced farmers to downsize their herds, particularly in central and southern Georgia, he says. Many farmers who typically might background calves, or feed weaned calves on winter annuals before their move to a feedlot, instead sold them as weanlings due to forage concerns. More than 15,000 farmers produce beef in Georgia. Many will expand when weather becomes favorable for forage production, White says. “The market has been sending signals. This past spring set record prices for feeder calves, and cow-calf guys made money if they had calves to sell.” a potent mix of historically high expenses and commodity values creates more financial risk than
caTTlemen manage risk
Evans Hooks operates a diversified cattle farm in Swainsboro. The beef industry brought in more than $406 million in 2011.
The NUmbEr S:
TOp cAT Tl E- p rO D Uc I N G cO U N T I E S:
georgia’s beef industry is 40 percent more valuable today than it was five years ago.
The georgia beef industry’s farm gate value exceeded $406.7 million in 2010.
beef producers in georgia. many farmers will increase their head of cattle when drought conditions lessen.
WITH mOrE THAN 6,000 mEmbErS, THE GEOrGIA cATTlEmEN’S ASSOcIATION, bASED IN mAcON, IS THE lArGEST SINGlE-cOmmODITy prODUcEr GrOUp IN GEOrGIA AND THE SIxTH-lArGEST STATE cATTlEmEN’S OrGANIzATION IN THE UNITED STATES.
previous farm generations ever faced in Georgia. “It takes niche marketing opportunities to survive in the roller coaster ride we’re all faced with in agriculture,” says Hooks, a thirdgeneration cattleman. Georgia is predominately a cowcalf state. about 85 to 90 percent of cattle farms own cows that give birth to calves annually. Those calves generally sell through livestock auction barns to Midwest feedlots, where they are fed to market weight. Hooks raises cows and calves, both crossbred and purebred red and black angus. The difference lies in what happens next. He sells some of his calves through an Internet video-based marketing company he co-owns. He also feeds most of his calves, about 600 annually, to market weight on his farm. He chooses
cattle are raised in all
counties of georgia.
a grass-fed diet to tap into the niche demand from health-foods stores and similar entities. animal compassion and welfare play vital roles in his business. He markets through a grass-fed alliance, which takes these cattle from pasture to plate. In addition, he offers custom grazing and finishing of grass-fed cattle on his farm and owns a livestock hauling business. The below-normal moisture of the last few years impacted his farm’s forage supply, too. However, he never downsized his herd in response. He used his rye grass silage inventory and found dependability in his irrigated hay. at 75 miles from the coast, his farm also benefited from more moisture than other parts of the state. Hooks manages risk with his niche markets and forward contracts. He attempts to stay ahead or on top of
the market to be less driven by drought and other market influences. cattle producers are known for being good stewards of Georgia’s natural resources. The bovines can graze on harvested fields and land undesirable for crop production. In other words, farmers can produce food and income from marginal land. and to the passerby, these pastured cattle paint a pretty scene on the state’s landscape. “In Georgia there’s just a lot of agriculture land that’s not suitable for farming anything other than grass,” Hooks says. “I think the beef industry is an integral part of family farm diversification in Georgia, whether it be the rolling hills of north Georgia or the flat sandy land of south Georgia.” —Joanie Stiers
The georgia landscaPe
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Processing plants provide certified meat for Georgia and other states
m&t meats openeD its Doors in 1963,
processing one or two hogs a week to provide sausage, bacon and ham for neighbors in its Hawkinsville community. The business today has 24 full-time employees who process 40 to 60 hogs a week for its retail store, and M&T is preparing to launch an online business. owner Phil Mathis predicts that the company’s pork sales will double during the first year M&T is online. “We’ve built a strong reputation in Georgia for 50 years, with 70 percent of customers driving to the M&T store from outside our Pulaski county area,” Mathis says. “Several of those out-of-town customers are actually from out of state.” Mathis says all pigs slaughtered at M&T are raised in Georgia. The company processes twice a week.
Meat of the MaTTer
“We also import certified angus beef to sell in our store, but all pork that we sell is from hogs we slaughter on site,” he says. “By the way, sanitation is top priority at our facility. My employees say I am obsessive-compulsive about sanitation. I take that as a compliment.” The meat industry contributes more than $3 billion annually to Georgia’s agricultural economy. Forty-three slaughterhouses operate in the state, most processing cattle and swine, though a handful also deal with sheep and goats. “our plant runs five days a week, slaughtering about 10 cows and 200-300 hogs in that time,” says James Mcafee, who co-owns Mcafee Packing company in Wrightsville with his brother, John. “The meat is sold at our retail store to give customers the freshest cuts of ground beef, steaks,
$3 Billion imPacT
A worker bones hogs at M&T Meats in Hawkinsville. M&T Meats is a family-owned operation that raises its own hogs for the market.
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OpErATE IN THE STATE, mOST prOcESSING cATTlE AND SWINE WITH A fEW OTHErS HANDlING SHEEp AND GOATS.
sausage, bacon and hams. We get animals from two local livestock dealers who both live within 20 miles of our facility.” Meanwhile, augusta-based FPL Food LLc is one of the largest privately owned processors of fresh beef products in the United States. The company has 800 employees in four facilities and processes 5,000 head of cattle weekly. “We also recently acquired and now operate a 1,061-acre farm in southeast Georgia that will feed 8,000 head of cattle annually,” says Steve Hixon, director of marketing for FPL Food. “We export beef worldwide, and our presence in southeast Georgia supports many local and regional cattle farmers.” Glen echols, director of the Georgia Department of agriculture’s Meat Inspection Section, says the meat-processing industry is well regulated throughout the state. a certified inspector must be present whenever slaughter takes place at any processing site in Georgia – except for one scenario. “In establishments where they don’t end up selling their meat products, an inspector will not be present. Those are places where a farmer might slaughter a hog for his own use, or for family members or friends,” echols says. “Those farmers can slaughter, process, package and wrap the meat, but each package must be marked ‘Not for Sale.’” echols says in each plant where meat is processed for eventual sale, an inspector examines every animal while it is alive in a holding pen, then each animal’s carcass is inspected one more time following the slaughter. “We look at critical lymph nodes, organs and tissues to make sure every animal is free of disease,” he says. “Then once the packages of meat are wrapped, every package must bear a Georgia mark of inspection if that package will be sold only within Georgia’s boundaries. However, if a processing plant is allowed to sell across state lines, then each meat package will bear a federal USDa mark of inspection. our ag department can also do inspections for the USDa – Georgia is one of nine states where that is allowed.” another part of the overall meat process is to check that declared weights are correct on package labels. echols says inspectors arbitrarily weigh packages to ensure, for example, that a 10-pound package of meat actually weighs 10 pounds. “Inspectors also verify that all animals are handled humanely during the slaughter process,” he says. “animals must be moved from holding pen to the plant in a humane manner, and the animals must be rendered instantly unconscious just prior to slaughter so that they won’t experience any pain. The Meat Inspection Section of the ag department is very thorough. our quest is for every processed package of meat from Georgia to be entirely safe for consumers.” —Kevin Litwin
every animal examined
M&T Meats opened its doors in 1963 processing one or two hogs per week. Today, the business has 24 full-time employees and processes 40 to 60 hogs per week for its retail store. The Hawkinsville business is still family-owned by Phil Mathis, who is preparing to launch an online shop.
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Indoor fish farming is growing in Georgia
When l angDale Farms
sought to diversify their operation, the idea for indoor fish farming was that next step. While Georgia primarily imports tilapia, after a decade raising the fish in addition to producing row crops, nuts, tomatoes and cattle, the folks at Langdale Farms can affirm tilapia are just as good raised in Georgia. “aquaculture in and of itself hasn’t had a lot of exposure yet,” says Mike royals, fish farm manager for Langdale Farms. “There are very few people who really understand what we do and how we do it.” U.S. aquaculture doubled production each decade during the past five decades, says Pat Duncan, director of the Georgia center for aquaculture Development at Fort Valley State University. Georgia possesses “huge potential” with its mild climate, abundant aquatic resources, major seaport and major international airport, she says. The state’s aquaculture industry supplies fish for recreational, ornamental and food use. Fish include trout, catfish, carp, bass, clams, crabs and even alligators. “The great growth in recreational fishing throughout the country has created additional value for aquaculture,” Duncan says. “even though some farmers got out of catfish farming because of feed prices and low filet prices from the processors, the higher value of fish is already causing
Tapped in to Tilapia
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The NU m bE rS :
The value of fish production in georgia pounds of tilapia are produced per year by langdale Farms inside its valdosta facility
Mike Royals raises tilapia for Langdale Farms in Valdosta. The Farmer’s Catch division of Southern States Cooperative markets and sells the fish live for wholesale distribution in Georgia, Texas, New York and Ontario, Canada.
Georg Dairy F ia armers
Farm Gate Value of $269.5 Million
Producing SAFE, FRESH and LOCAL milk.
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farmers to come back into fish farming.” after more than 10 years, Langdale Farms continues to produce 250,000 pounds of tilapia per year inside their Valdosta facility, royals says. Langdale Farms serves as a producer grower, compensated for gain in weight. The Farmer’s catch division of Southern States cooperative owns and markets the fish. The fish arrive at 100 grams and leave at 1 1/2 pounds, sizable enough for filets. a company ships the fish to wholesalers, who distribute to high-end restaurants and other markets across the U.S. and canada. The tilapia live indoors in a recirculating aquaculture system (raS), considered the most efficient seafood production system for the future of aquaculture. Fort Valley State University studies raS technology and its use with marine species. The university also practices aquaponics, the combination of raS with vegetable production. Langdale Farms owns a dozen 15,000-gallon tanks regulated for water quality and temperature. at just 10,000 square feet of space, the fish farm produces significant product on a small ecological footprint, royals says. a filtration process separates solid waste from the water for use as a biological fertilizer on the farm’s fields. The water then enters a biological filter to remove nitrites and nitrates. It re-enters the fish tanks after a cycle through the oxygenation filter. The recirculation process results in little waste, he says. royals proudly boasts the facility’s environmental stewardship, and is excited about aquaculture’s potential in the state. “The demand for aquaculture is going to get bigger and bigger in Georgia.” —Joanie Stiers
Top: Tanks hold feed for the 250,000 pounds of tilapia produced by Langdale Farms each year. Bottom: Mike Royals (right) and his son, Will, work in the indoor Valdosta facility.
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Program promotes local products to connect farmers to consumers
it useD to be common For georgians, When looking For proDuce,
to head to the nearest supermarket, pick up some fruits and vegetables, and never give a second thought to where they came from. In recent years, however, consumer preference has drastically changed. across the country, and specifically in Georgia, the steadily rising demand for locally grown and processed foods has become a catalyst for producers to give more than just a product. In January 2012, the Georgia Department of agriculture relaunched its Georgia Grown marketing program, sporting a brand-new look. With fresh leadership, a redesigned logo and a helpful website, the program has taken huge strides toward connecting producers with the community – and both parties have noticed.
andrew Thompson, a pork farmer and owner of Thompson Farms in southern Georgia, says the Georgia Grown program has helped by communicating promotional opportunities for farmers. “customers really get behind local food and like to put a farmer’s face to the product,” says Thompson. “We’ve been notified about events at the atlanta Farmers Market and local markets through the program that we didn’t know about before.” “It’s a huge benefit when the commissioner talks to us. He lets us ask questions, promotes local farms when he has events in the area, and he put an article about Thompson Farms in the Market Bulletin. “after that we were getting calls from all over the state.” The program is designed to help businesses and farmers become more successful by bringing them together with consumers, suppliers, retailers and agritourism opportunities. It’s also used widely as a branding tool. any member business may use the Georgia Grown logo on its products, letting customers know it was grown or made in the state. Georgia Grown offers several different packages for businesses to choose from, with specific privileges ranging from use of the program’s logo, to access to business webinars, to featured articles in statewide press releases, depending on the level of membership. In addition to membership information, the program’s website is an excellent agricultural resource for both farmers and consumers.
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GEOrGIA GrOWN mEmbErSHIp pAckAGES ArE OffErED TO fArmErS, prODUcErS AND bUSINESSES.
The georgia grown program has fresh leadership, a new logo and a website aimed at farmers and consumers.
above: Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black meets with visitors and vendors at the State Farmers Market. opposite page: Retailers market their products to shoppers at the State Farmers Market in Forest Park.
The website features supplier listings, categorized by what’s in season, all-season commodities and agribusiness companies. If a consumer is looking specifically for blueberries, he or she can filter the options to make the search easier and more efficient. The site also shows availability of produce by month, farmers market listings and agritourism activities including pick-your-own farms. “When we get calls about area farms and pick-yourown activities, we always go to the Georgia Grown website first,” says rebecca Smith of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers association (GFVGa). “We know it’s a great listing and a great resource for farmers to
connect with one another and publicize their operation. People really love that home state pride, and the website adds appeal to the farms and their products.” as for the future of the Georgia Grown program, charles Hall, executive director of the GFVGa, says commissioner Gary Black has lots planned. Working closely with the Department of agriculture, retailers are interested in using the logo any way they can. “Before the relaunch, you always talked about the program but didn’t really have anything to get behind,” says Hall. “They have come a long way in the past six months.” —Rachel Bertone
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Getting Schooled in Local Produce
Department of agriculture program asks local communities to feed their schools
hen the Georgia Department of agriculture staff asked schools to go local for one week, they knew it wouldn’t be easy. In fact, that’s why they did it. efforts have increased to support healthier school lunches that include local foods. The Department created Feed My School for a Week in 2011 to make that a brief reality while also exposing the challenges of doing so throughout the year. For some students, it was a week of visiting farms that grew the food they were eating and seeing a cow milked from the creamery that provided their milk that week. “There was an excitement about school lunch that week,” says Jo Dinnan, principal at Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences academy in Hall county. “More parents came in for school lunch to see what the kids were talking about when they got home.” Her school was one of three chosen for the pilot program from different regions of the state. That week’s menu included local chicken, barbecued pork, strawberries, salad, and even cornbread and grits from a local mill. “We had more lunch participation that week than ever before,” Dinnan says. “Between cheesy nachos and chicken, they chose chicken.” In colquitt county, nutrition director Monika Griner says
students were excited because they lived on those farms or knew of them. The school took it a step beyond and had the students grow basil and onions for a pizza garden. “The kids got excited because they were part of the program,” she says. The state hopes to add five schools to the program in the upcoming year and include a more diverse range of urban and rural schools, says Melanie Harris, nutritional coordinator for the Georgia Department of agriculture. The idea for the program came from commissioner of agriculture Gary Black, who wanted to encourage local farmers and schools to work together while also showing why putting local foods in schools is so difficult. For the week, foods had to be 75 to 100 percent Georgia grown. The challenges became clear
quickly. one example, Dinnan says, was the local creamery they could use that week did not have a bottle the correct size for regular school use. It’s also difficult to manage fresh produce storage when the growing season doesn’t match the school calendar. The Department wants to review each challenge and address it by policy, education or infrastructure, Harris says. communication proved to be the biggest factor. Putting farmers and distributors in the same room made for huge progress. Taking that to a wider audience is another of Harris’s goals. She would like an online system that allows people to give their location and learn what is grown in their area, who grows it and who distributes it. That could be significant for places such as hospitals, nursing homes and restaurants. —Sonja Bjelland
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Agritourism destinations showcase Georgia agriculture
agriculture, the No. 1 economic generator in Georgia, with tourism, the No. 2? Plenty. You get an industry that offers leisure, fun, education and entertainment for the public, provides a financial opportunity for the agriculture community, and creates a significant economic impact for the state – a $138 million impact in 2011 alone. From wineries to U-pick farms to grist mills, agritourism in Georgia covers a lot of ground. creative farmers open up their homes, their land and their minds to establish new ways to engage the public, promote the industry and supplement their income. “The creativity of the ag community drives the success of the industry,” says cindy Norton, agritourism manager for the Georgia Department
What happens When you combine
of agriculture. “There is great growth potential, especially for those who are willing to experiment, to find something unique that they can add to their current operation or to capitalize on what the public is asking for or is interested in.” For kids, that might be enjoying corn mazes and feeding farm animals. For families, it could be picking apples or riding horses. For couples, maybe it’s a bed-and-breakfast, a farm stay or a wedding on the grounds of a winery. Whatever it is, Georgia agritourism has something for everyone. calhoun Produce in ashburn is one of the many Georgia agriculture businesses that have built a successful niche in agritourism. Primarily a butterbean and pea farm, calhoun added a U-pick strawberry patch in 1996 that began its transformation into a tourist destination. other
Fun on The Farm
Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge first opened in the early 1940s. Today, three generations still operate the farm, which offers a U-pick apple orchard and sells a variety of preserves and baked goods.
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additions include a store, a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, a goat walk, a honeybee house, a sunflower field, a picnic pavilion – and the list goes on. “each time we add something new, we get positive feedback from our customers,” says Sheila rice, a member of the calhoun family. “We constantly have people on the farm because we have something different for each season. They look forward to seeing what we’ll add next.” In the midst of all that activity, the calhouns continue to grow, harvest and process butterbeans and other vegetables. They include a tour or their packing plant as one of the many activities visitors can enjoy. “We have an opportunity to connect people to agriculture,” rice says. “While they’re here there’s lots for them to enjoy, but it’s also a chance for them to learn about many different aspects of farming. We host field trips for school groups of all sizes and ages. Teachers appreciate the chance for their students to get hands-on experience with agriculture.” at Mercier orchards in Blue ridge, visitors can get a glimpse of a large-scale fruit-growing operation and enjoy the fun of picking some themselves. “We’ve been in business since 1943 but are relatively new to agritourism,” says Tim Mercier. “We were the first to start U-pick apples in Georgia, and it’s become very popular. In fact, we’re looking to have 90 to 100 acres devoted exclusively to U-pick.” every weekend from mid-august through october,
At 94 years old, Adele Mercier (pictured above) can still be found working at the family orchard, which sells fried pies made using her recipe.
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have an opportunity “ Weconnect people to to agriculture.” – ShEIlA RIcE
In addition to a bustling pick-your-own operation, the orchard sells cider, jams, jellies and baked goods. It also hosts a hard-cider tasting room.
visitors can walk the orchards and choose ripe, juicy apples off the trees. When other fruits are in season, Mercier adds U-pick opportunities for those as well. and if that’s not enough, visitors can shop Mercier’s fullline farm market, open all but four days a year, and tour other facilities on the 300-acre farm. “Visitors can see the packing line when they’re at the farm market and the cider production line when they’re in our hard-cider tasting rooms,” says Mercier. “We have a wholesale bakery, where we make 10,000 pies a day, and tours can be arranged to see that process, too.” The number of visitors changes with the seasons, fall being the busiest time. “In october, we could have thousands of people a day going through the market,” says Mercier.
This multigenerational farm family doesn’t just wait for people to come to them. They take their agritourism act on the road, driving their mobile pie kitchen to special events like the Kentucky Derby and NaScar races to promote their business and the agritourism industry. Norton says that businesses like Mercier orchards and calhoun Produce and many more like them in the state have developed a winning formula that appeals to the public. “More and more people are interested in learning about local food and the farmers who grow it,” she says. “Plus, they are looking for enjoyable, family-friendly activities that are unique and close to home. Georgia’s agritourism industry gives them lots of options.” -Cathy Lockman
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Step Back in Time
t the Georgia Museum of agriculture in Tifton, visitors get more than just an introduction to rural history. They get a feel for it. That’s because the museum is more than artifacts. It’s also an historic village, where rural life in the 19th century is recreated. costumed interpreters share the history of their building, from the blacksmith’s shop to the print shop to the barn, in a way that makes the time come alive. Visitors can sit in the schoolhouse and write on the chalkboard. They can shuck corn in the feed and seed, grind it in the mill, and then take it to feed the chickens. They can participate in the domestic chores of washing laundry by hand and raking the yard with a branch broom. “The goal is to get the guest active in the interpretation,” says Garrett Boone, assistant director of the museum. “The hands-on activity gives people an appreciation for the rural lifestyle and makes something that is educational also something that is entertaining and memorable.” More than 35 structures have been relocated to the 95-acre site and restored, creating an authentic experience for visitors. The original Victorian home of Tifton’s founder is also open for tours, and the museum’s steam-powered train, the only one still in operation in
experience 19th-century rural life at ag museum
the state, is a popular attraction. Boone encourages Georgians to visit the museum during different seasons as well. “Throughout the year, we host special events, like our october Fall Frolic and our Spring Folk Life Festival. It’s a special time
at the museum where we bring in additional attractions, like craftsmen, artists and fiddle players, for instance. It’s another way for us to combine entertainment and education to give visitors a unique experience.” —Cathy Lockman
If yOU GO :
THE GEORGIA MUSEUM OF AGRICULTURE IS LOCATED AT ABRAHAM BALDWIN AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE IN TIFTON. HOURS, ATTRACTIONS AND ADMISSION RATES VARY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, SO VISIT WWW.ABAC.EDU/MUSEUM FOR MORE INFORMATION.
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Locate Products of Georgia Agriculture
1. High road craft ice cream in atlanta The 2012 winner of the Flavor of Georgia competition blends and pasteurizes their own mixtures, making ice cream in small batches at their atlanta headquarters. With flavors like french toast, bourbon burnt sugar and brown butter praline, you can’t go wrong with the company’s craft creations.
3. mercier orchards in Blue ridge From flaky fried apple pies to their award-winning sparkling apple cider, the family-owned orchard has been growing and selling apples for more than 60 years. Nestled in the Georgia Blue ridge Mountains, they offer U-Pick apples and weekend tractor rides.
4. geechee girl Foods in albany Seafood may not be the first thing that comes to mind with Georgia agriculture, but Geechee Girl Foods in albany is famous for their seafood gumbo. The recipe took first place in the meats category at the Flavor of Georgia 2012 competition.
ST. SImONS ISlAND
2. lauri Jo’s Southern Style canning in Norman Park The family-owned and operated company produces pepper jellies, fruit jams, and gourmet toppings from fresh-picked produce and ingredients. Lauri Jo’s Muscadine Pepper Jelly won at the 2012 Flavor of Georgia competition. The company is a proud member of Georgia Grown.
5. Southern Soul BBQ in St. Simons island Southern Soul BBQ took the sauces crown at the 2012 Flavor of Georgia competition with its sweet and smoky concoction. The company does BBQ the old-fashioned way, with 12+ hour hardwood-fire slow smoked meats and homemade sides.
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As the U.S.’s fastest growing port, Port of Savannah is a major player in global ag
Georgians know their homegrown products are a treat. and thanks to the bustling Port of Savannah, so does the rest of the world. International agricultural exports from this area are older than Georgia itself. enterprising traders have been taking products from the farm to foreign markets for nearly three centuries, since english nobleman James edward oglethorpe began settling the colony of Georgia in the 1730s. By 1855, exports through Savannah’s port had grown to $20 million with cotton representing nearly 90 percent of those exports. More than 150 years later, cotton remains Georgia’s leading agricultural export, valued at $584 million. The value of today’s agricultural exports eclipses anything those early entrepreneurs might have imagined. In 2011, Georgia moved some 6.5 million tons of agricultural cargo through the nation’s deepwater ports, with a collective value of $4.93 billion.
From peanuts to peaches anD cotton to viDalia onions,
A ship is loaded and unloaded simultaneously at Georgia’s Port of Savannah. The port plays a significant role in exporting Georgia agricultural products such as poultry and lumber.
State and “ Peach farmers U.S.
continue to provide not only food, fibers and forest products, but also economic stability for our state.
” – RObERt S. JEpSON JR.
Top: Robert Jepson Jr. is the chair of the Georgia Ports Authority in Savannah. Bottom: Refrigerated containers are loaded onto trucks at the Port of Savannah.
as the nation’s fastest-growing port, the Port of Savannah has become a major player in the global agricultural market. “It’s no coincidence that Savannah is america’s single largest gateway for poultry exports and that Georgia is the nation’s leading producer of chicken,” says James H. Sumner, President of the USa Poultry & egg export council. “The strategic location of the Georgia Ports has helped to empower Georgia to be one of the largest exporters of poultry, benefiting the entire U.S. industry.” along with poultry, Georgia exports include other refrigerated cargoes such as onions and pecans, as well as forest products like paper and lumber. The Port of Brunswick handles agri-bulk cargo like grain and wood pellets, while containerized goods move through the Port of Savannah. These 20- and 40-foot containers can hold upwards of 60,000 pounds of cargo. The process of getting the state’s diverse products from the farm to the port begins when growers throughout the state harvest poultry and farm produce. These products
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are then processed and prepared for shipment at regional facilities. The goods ultimately arrive at Georgia’s deepwater ports by truck and rail. over the years, Georgia has grown a thriving transportation industry to support its oldest and largest industry: agriculture. “The state’s exporting success is possible because of its strong transportation infrastructure,” says robert S. Jepson Jr., chairman of the Georgia Ports authority. “With two class I rail lines, the world’s busiest airport and the fastest growing ports in the nation, Georgia stands out for its ability to move people and goods efficiently.” Homegrown exports play a key role in supporting the state’s agriculture industry, a major source of jobs. In fact, according to the Georgia Farm Bureau, one in seven Georgians work in agriculture, forestry or related fields, and agriculture contributes more than $68.9 billion annually to Georgia’s $719.8 billion economy. But agricultural exports mean more than a boon to Georgia’s farmers. The ability to share the state’s bounty on a global scale is vital to the industries that feed off of agriculture, including food processing, storage and transportation. “expediting the flow of cargo cultivates opportunities in many sectors, from farming and manufacturing to transportation and logistics. This, in turn, creates a thriving business climate for Georgia and the entire Southeast,” Jepson says. In fact, a study released by the University of Georgia in april 2012 shows that the state’s deepwater ports support more than 350,000 full- and part-time jobs across the state, including more than 25,000 agriculture-related jobs. That’s 8.3 percent of Georgia’s total employment, and more than 56,000 new jobs since the last study was completed in 2009. as Jepson says, “The deepwater ports at Savannah and Brunswick are important components of the state’s economic picture, tying Georgia’s economy to markets
Top: Stacked containers sit at the Port of Savannah. Bottom: The CMA CGM Figaro makes its way past River Street in historic Savannah, heading to the Georgia Ports Authority Garden City Terminal.
beyond our regional and national borders, and providing opportunities for retailers, manufacturers and agribusinesses alike.” and those ports are thriving. The Port of Savannah has become the second-busiest U.S. port for containerized export tonnage – second only to the Port of Los angeles. Savannah’s port is in the national spotlight these days as the focus of a channel deepening project that will ready it for the super-sized ships arriving after the Panama canal expansion ends in 2014. The pivotal project, which has been under review for some 15 years,
will help the Port of Savannah continue as a vital link between Georgia farms and the world. “Including farm products used for domestic consumption, Georgia growers contribute more than $70 billion to our annual economy,” Jepson says. “Peach State and U.S. farmers continue to provide not only food, fibers and forest products, but also economic stability for our state.” and thanks to shipping portals like the one at Savannah, Georgia will continue to share its bounty with the world with benefits rippling throughout the Peach State and beyond. –Celeste Huttes
Photo Courtesy of stePhen Morton
Increasing depth means increasing Georgia exports
Col. Jeffrey Hall (left) of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District and Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.
ive feet, 60 inches. Not even 2 yards. By the measuring stick, it doesn’t sound like much, but a project to deepen the Port of Savannah channel from 42 to 47 feet will offer benefits that are almost beyond measure. The catalyst for the current proposed project, and others along the east coast, is the first major expansion of the Panama canal in its nearly 100-year history. When the Panama canal project is completed in 2014, larger locks will accommodate super-sized cargo ships with three times the current capacity.
The Savannah Harbor expansion Project – the subject of discussion and debate for some 15 years – is critical for the port to remain competitive in a global marketplace. “The single most critical factor for the Port of Savannah’s future success, and its ability to move american-made goods to the international marketplace, is the completion of the Savannah Harbor expansion Project,” says alec L. Poitevint, former chairman of the Georgia Port authority. “This is precisely the type of effort that will bring comprehensive
economic recovery to the United States.” Not to mention its impact on the state economy. already, Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 352,000 jobs throughout the state and contribute more than $66.9 billion to Georgia’s economy every year. The nation’s fastest-growing port, Port of Savannah is also the shallowest port in the Southeast. even today, about 80 percent of incoming vessels at the 1,200-acre facility have to endure a costly wait for high tide before they can cross
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Photo Courtesy of GeorGia Ports authority
the channel and deposit their deliveries. By dredging another 5 feet of mud and sand from a 30-mile stretch of river bottom, the expansion project will increase the depth of the Savannah river to 47 feet at mean low water. That’s enough to accommodate the giant cargo ships that will come through after the Panama canal expansion is complete – and will keep the port competitive. The U.S. army corps of engineers estimates the project will cost $652 million, with roughly 45 percent of that going to address environmental concerns. Federal funds are expected to pay two-thirds of the project with Georgia taxpayers picking up the rest of the tab. The expected payback on that investment is promising. In fact, the corps estimates the project will provide $174 million in economic benefits to the nation – that’s a $5.5 gain for every $1 spent. The Port of Savannah is the second busiest port for the export of american products, shipping 13.27 million tons of containerized cargo in fiscal year 2012. The port handles one out of every eight tons of containerized cargo destined for foreign markets and is one of only a handful of american ports where exports exceed imports. Those exports come from around the country – including poultry, peaches, clay and wood from Georgia – and impact 15 states representing nearly half of the nation’s population. That impact could grow, too, as the expansion promises to draw new business with lower shipping costs. The deeper channel at Savannah will lower shipping costs because the price per shipping container gets smaller with the larger capacity vessels, which in 2014 will be able to transit the Panama canal for an all-water route to the east coast. These savings could then be passed along to consumers. —Celeste Huttes
The NU m b Er S:
The u.s. army corps of engineers estimates the project will provide $174 million in economic benefits to the nation, a gain of $5.5 for every $1 spent.
georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 352,000 jobs throughout the state and contribute more than $66.9 billion to georgia’s economy each year.
S AvA N N A H HAr b Or E x pA N S I O N p r O J Ec T:
The channel deepening project at georgia’s Port of savannah will dredge 5 feet of mud and sand from a 30-mile stretch of river bottom to increase the depth of the savannah river from 42 to 47 feet. The project will allow larger cargo ships to come through the port – america’s second-busiest – and contribute to georgia’s export economy. The catalyst for the project and other similar projects along the east coast, is the major expansion of the Panama canal, which will be completed in 2014.
coNSumer aND iNDuStrY ServiceS
several times a year, the
Weights and Measures Lab in Tifton has a date with Lady Luck. That’s because each month Georgia State Lottery officials bring a random selection of lottery balls to the facility to be weighed. Ball number 12 must weigh exactly the same as ball number 1 and every other ball in the hopper to ensure that luck, not weight, brings the winning numbers to the top. Maintaining the integrity of the lottery process and protecting the interests of the people who play is just one very small example of the very big job the Department of agriculture’s Division of Fuel and Measures does. The division covers lots of ground, with 21 inspectors operating the smallest scales that weigh lottery balls to the largest that weigh truckloads traveling the Georgia roads. another 21 inspectors and lab
Department of Agriculture inspects for accuracy
personnel are responsible for testing fuel quality and pump accuracy at fuel terminals and gas stations across the state. It’s a job that requires the use of precision equipment by trained professionals. “our goal is to ensure that consumers are protected in the marketplace,” says rich Lewis, the division director. “We want them to feel confident that they are getting what they pay for. our services also benefit businesses, because by randomly inspecting pumps and scales we are creating a level playing field. everyone’s measures and quality are held to the same standard. That way one business doesn’t have a competitive advantage over another.”
The work of the Fuel and Measures Division is not a service that Georgians typically see, but it’s
certainly one that impacts their pocketbooks. Inspectors visit hardware stores, grocery stores, pawn shops, any establishment where commodities are sold by weight, to verify the accuracy of the scales. For jobs more than 10,000 pounds, inspectors work in teams of two, checking scales at lumberyards, livestock barns and truck stops. While most inspections take place on-site at the business, a dimension of the work requires additional technology and expertise. That’s where the new Weights and Measures Lab, which opened in 2011, comes in. a state-of-the-art facility, the lab literally tips the scales in Georgians’ favor by providing technology that ensures precision standards for scales and accurate information for fuel samples. “When inspectors are at gas stations, they pull samples of the fuel
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Clockwise from top left: The Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Fuel and Measures Division tests a batches of fuel at the labs in Tifton; Inspector Kirk Andrews tests the pump at a gas station in Macon; State metrologist Kontz Bennet checks testing machinery at the Tifton Agriculture Laboratory complex.
and then the lab tests them to check that the octane levels are correct, that the gas doesn’t have impurities, and that the ethanol content is right,” says lewis. “in the weights and measures part of the lab, tests are done on the standard weights that inspectors take with them to test on-site scales.” to assist inspectors in the metro atlanta area, the division also staffs a mobile lab to make the screening process more efficient. if that’s not enough, the division is responsible for checking the accuracy of fuel pumps in addition to quality of the fuel, so that the price
The Georgia Department of Agriculture Fuel and Measures inspectors engage in regular annual and semi-annual inspection routines. However, if an unexpected problem arises, it takes priority over routine inspections. If you are aware of any such instance related to fuel and measures including inconsistencies at the gas pump, please call 1-800-282-5852 to report it.
“Making education work for all Georgians.”
Georgia Agricultural Education www.gaaged.org
Georgia FFA Association www.georgiaffa.org
Georgia Young Farmers www.georgiayoungfarmers.org
Georgia FFA Foundation www.georgiaffafoundation.org
Georgia FFA Alumni www.ffaalumni.org
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consumers see advertised is actually the price they are paying. Sometimes the pump inspection requires an adjustment in the consumer’s favor; other times the station benefits from the findings. Division employees also inspect propane meters on delivery trucks and grain moisture meters at grain warehouses to be sure they are accurate. Fielding consumer complaints is also part of the job. “There is an 800 number on every gas pump,” explains Lewis. “consumers who feel the pump is inaccurate or that the fuel quality is suspect can call that number and we will investigate. We want to be sure that the price that is advertised is really what the consumer is getting.” –Cathy Lockman
learn more about consumer protection services at gaagriculture.com
above: Department of Agriculture Fuel and Measures Inspector Kirk Andrews checks a gas pump in Macon. Below: Carlos Heard with the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Fuel and Measures Division tests a batch of fuel at the Tifton Agriculture Laboratory complex.
out across the state with a different type of grocery list. Some of them pick up foods at farmers markets and grocery stores for testing. others focus on processing plants, slaughterhouses or crops. They’re part of a cadre of inspectors and analysts working behind the headlines about food recalls and illnesses to protect the food supply. In summer 2012, chopped onions from california potentially contaminated with Listeria led
Until recently, all food recalls were voluntary. In January 2011, the
coNSumer aND iNDuStrY ServiceS
Inspections ensure safety of food, animals and plants
FooD saFety inspectors Fan
to the recall of products as varied as pimento cheese and mango salsa from Georgia and other states. a 2009 salmonella outbreak in Georgia peanuts forever altered how food is inspected in the state. Legislation and leadership led to increased training, a focus on working together and a close look at how each section worked. “You need to eliminate duplication of those resources and concentrate on the risk associated with those products and manufacturing techniques,” says oscar Garrison,
Food Safety Division director. Some farms and plants hold themselves to standards beyond what the state requires, making them less risky to the food supply. With new research, the state can focus on farms on the opposite end of the spectrum. “other farms may not have the stellar histories, and those that fall in those lower categories have a higher risk to the food safety system in this country,” Garrison says. The changes made after that Georgia outbreak have made it easier
fOOD SAfETy mODErNIzATION AcT
gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to remove products from the market in the event that company refuses a voluntary recall.
THE 72,000-SqUArE-fOOT TIfTON AGrIcUlTUrE lAbOrATOry cOmplEx OpENED IN 2011 AND IS EqUIppED WITH THE lATEST ADvANcEmENTS IN TEcHNOlOGy TO ASSIST THE DEpArTmENT Of AGrIcUlTUrE STAff IN INSpEcTING TIfTON, GA fOOD, ANImAl HEAlTH, crOpS, AND fUEl AND mEASUrES ScAlES.
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Greg Hegwood, a field inspector supervisor with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, takes a feed sample in Tifton for testing.
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to implement the federal Food Safety Modernization act, which focuses on preventing outbreaks instead of reacting to them. Dr. Wendy cuevas-espelid, assistant state veterinarian, says she has noticed the general public is more interested in the safety of their food and knowing where it comes from. “I do think that consumers are becoming more curious, and want to know more about the whole animal industry,” she says. Inspectors in the animal Industry Division look for tumors, parasites and abnormalities in carcasses and also test slaughterhouses. “We want to make sure animals are healthy, that they’re not carrying infectious disease from one animal to another and then getting in the food chain,” cuevas-espelid says. animal Industry is one of several department divisions with inspectors that together test produce in stores, processing plants, fields and anywhere in between. The list of what they test for is long but includes: e. coli, salmonella, Listeria, staph, histamines in fish, sulfites in dried fruits, pesticide residue, chemical contaminants and the fat content of ground beef. New, high-tech equipment at the 72,000-square-foot Tifton agriculture Laboratory complex allows analysts to check for even smaller amounts of pesticide residue and chemical contaminants, says Dr. reuben Beverly, director of the Plant Industry Division, which tests produce and crops. “We probably had these outbreaks for years,” he says. But now science and surveillance of the food network has made it possible to not only discover related cases but also track down illnesses to a particular product or type of food. considering the number of samples tested, Beverly says scientists rarely find bacteria or chemicals of concern. But when they do, they have an established working relationship with colleagues at the Department of Health and other agencies. That has increased with concerns about potential
Top: Department of Agriculture inspector Joe Thomas (left) talks with Derrick Williams and his nephew Daniel during a farm visit in Milan. Bottom: Jessica Lancaster tests a sample for traces of pesticides.
bioterrorism or agriterrorism. “We’re keeping that awareness and vigilance whether it’s intentional or accidental,” he says. The number of small hobby farms and local kitchen operations has put a new twist into the world of food safety regulations. Unable to inspect every jar of jam sold at farmers markets across the state, the Department of agriculture has recently established a “cottage food license.” People who wish to
produce “non-potentially hazardous food” in a home kitchen must register and pay a $100 licensing fee annually. Garrison said this is intended for home cooks making wedding cakes, jams and similar items that do not easily spoil and are sold only to the end consumer. The regulations require the makers to take food safety training and allow inspectors into their kitchens. –Sonja Bjelland
coNSumer aND iNDuStrY ServiceS
Bulletin remains medium of exchange for farm goods
fter nearly 100 years, the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin continues to serve the people behind its name. The biweekly publication of the Georgia Department of agriculture started in 1917, before television and the Internet, as a way for farmers to sell their products to consumers and fellow farmers. “even as technology has changed, I think the Bulletin has remained popular. Particularly for our older readership, they have gotten it for years and it helps them to stay rooted in agriculture,” says carlton Moore, editor of the publication. “It’s had an appeal to people as something we’ve always provided as a service.” at nearly 800 classifieds per edition, the foundation for the 12-page, biweekly publication remains its free 20- to 30-word advertisements for farmer and consumer subscribers. ads range from the most popular categories of used farm equipment and supplies to livestock, farm employment and garden items. The publication regularly features editorial content that
includes a recipe column, gardening information, calendar of events and general news about Georgia agriculture and the department. Lists of pick-yourown produce farms and christmas tree farms, published at relevant times throughout the year, are popular services. Special editions include the biannual farmland editions, which feature Georgia farmland for sale,
and quarterly equine editions, which include horses and supplies for sale and lists of boarding and breeding facilities throughout the state. Georgia residents may subscribe to the print version of the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin for $10 per year or an online version for $5. For information, visit www.thegamarketbulletin.com. —Joanie Stiers
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Future oF agriculture
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The next generation cultivates technology and marketing
agricuLture is green and
growing in georgia, contributing $68.9 billion annually to the state’s $719.8 billion economy. it’s truly a growing business, with one in seven georgians working in agriculture, forestry or related fields. with an eye on the future, young farmers are taking advantage of technology and education to run efficient, ecologically friendly and profitable farms. the echols family knows a thing or two about farming, leading Jaemor Farms since 1912. currently three generations work on the farm, with a fourth waiting in the wings. Sixth-generation farmer Drew echols, 33, manages the farm. He’s seen many changes to his family farming business, which has the largest roadside market in the country. “my granddad was laughed at for saying he wanted to be a farmer,” echols says. “People looked down on farmers 50 years ago. Now it’s almost a novelty profession. People have to eat, and farmers have to be the movers and shakers in food production.” echols believes it’s important to diversify crops in order to diversify the kind of customers who visit the market, whether to purchase or to experience farming as agritourists. with more than 20 varieties of peaches, eight varieties of apples, a corn maze, farm tours and a market stocked with homemade breads, jams, jellies, pies and boiled peanuts, Jaemor Farms sees nearly a million agritourism visitors each year. “we used to see mostly retirees on their way to the Smoky mountains, going leaf-looking,” echols says. “Now we have people making the trip up to visit our farm. we have over 7,000 fans on Facebook.”
chris hopkins walks with his son Banks through one of the peanut fields on his 600 acres in Toombs county. he preserves the future of agriculture by preserving the land he’s farming.
Top: Valvoreth, Jimmy, Jarl, Judah and Drew Echols (from left to right) represent the three generations of the family that runs Jaemor Farms. Bottom: The fourth generation includes Drew’s daughter Chloe and son Cohen.
With the locally grown movement sweeping the nation, Jaemor Farms sees increased demand by 25 to 30 percent each year, echols says. Jaemor Farms has even branched out to wholesale markets, including restaurants and school lunch programs. “It takes different personalities when dealing in restaurants compared to soccer moms coming in to pick up a half a dozen peaches,” echols says. “We try to stay personal with both, but when we’re dealing with large sales, it feels more like business.” To keep up with increasing demand, echols says it’s important for people in the industry to be knowledgeable in marketing and accounting as well as agricultural law and ever-changing regulations. chris Hopkins, first-generation Toombs county farmer and recent recipient of the annual Governor’s environmental Stewardship award, sees many opportunities for young people in the agriculture industry. While earning a master’s degree in plant protection and pest management from the University of Georgia college of agricultural and
The NU mb E rS :
drew echols’ family has led Jaemor Farms since 1912. currently three generations work on the farm.
chris hopkins and his wife, marilynn, started their farm from scratch on 50 acres. it has now grown to 600 acres.
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environmental Sciences, Hopkins gained insight in the day-to-day issues a farmer faces when dealing with crops, including the ongoing challenges of weeds, disease and insects. Being able to effectively combat those battles either mechanically, through the development of new pesticide products, or other growing techniques is a bright spot for our economy, says Hopkins. “Naturally, as technology advances, we get into more guidancerelated farming. everything from fundamental agronomics, to pest management, to mechanical related farming is needed. especially in rural america.” Seven years ago Hopkins and his wife, Marilynn, started their farm from scratch on 50 acres of rented land. Since then, the Hopkinses have been protecting the future of their now-600 acres of cotton, peanuts, corn, timber, watermelons and pecans through land and soil conservation
efforts. Specialized training has taught them to recognize highly erodible areas and how to manage those areas differently, maximizing irrigation efficiency through site-specific waterways and terraces, and adopting conservative tillage practices. In order for agriculture to support and sustain our population, Hopkins says it is crucial to stay ahead of the curve and become more efficient in production practices. “I believe agriculture is going to be one of the key catalysts to our country and our planet. Farmers of the future are going to have to have a good conservationist or environmentalist working with them.” “a farmer has to wear so many hats. He has to have somebody walking by his side to help make general decisions with the understanding of business or economics. Some formal education is needed to be successful in today’s agricultural business.” –Jillian Ranegar
Drew Echols is the latest generation to help run the operations at Jaemor Farms in Alto.
The Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development
Adding value to Georgia’s agricultural economy through research and extension.
Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development Athens, GA 30602-7509 (706) 542-2434 tel (706) 542-0770 fax www.caed.uga.edu Or contact your county Extension agent: (800) ASK-UGA1
The Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development’s economists and business specialists help Georgians succeed in agribusiness and contribute to Georgia’s agricultural economy. CAED provides timely assistance to producers and entrepreneurs by providing: • • • Agribusiness marketing services Agricultural and demographic data Economic feasibility assessments • • • Economic impact analysis Policy analysis on agricultural issues Resources and publications
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Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association
Abraham-Baldwin Agricultural College ACC for Milk
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2012-13 EDITION, VOLUME 1 journal communications inc.
Managing Editor Blair tHomas Content Director jessy yancey Proofreading Manager raven Petty Content Coordinator racHel Bertone Contributing Writers sonja BjellanD, cHarlyn Fargo, susan HayHurst, celeste Huttes, Kevin litwin, catHy locKman, Kim maDlom, jillian ranegar, joanie stiers Senior Graphic Designers laura gallagHer, jaKe sHores, stacey allis Kris sexton, viKKi williams Graphic Designers erica lamPley, Kara leiBy, Kacey Passmore Senior Photographers jeFF aDKins, Brian mccorD Staff Photographers toDD Bennett, micHael conti, martin cHerry Color Imaging Technician alison Hunter Ad Production Manager Katie miDDenDorF Ad Traffic Assistants Krystin lemmon, Patricia moisan Chairman greg tHurman President/Publisher BoB scHwartzman Executive Vice President ray langen Senior V.P./Operations casey Hester Senior V.P./Agribusiness Publishing Kim newsom HolmBerg V.P./External Communications teree carutHers V.P./Agribusiness Sales rHonDa graHam V.P./Sales HerB HarPer Controller cHris DuDley Accounts Receivable Coordinator Diana guzman Sales Support Coordinator alex marKs Sales Support Project Manager sara Quint System Administrator Daniel cantrell Web Creative Director allison Davis Photography Director jeFFrey s. otto Creative Services Director cHristina carDen Creative Technology Analyst Becca ary Distribution Director gary smitH
ACC for Peaches
ACC for Soybeans Georgia Department of Agriculture AG Georgia Farm Credit
Georgia Peanut Commission Georgia Pecan Commission Georgia Poultry Federation Georgia Power
AgriTrust of Georgia
Georgia Winegrowers Association Golden Peanut Company LLC
Aimtrac Farm Implement Distribution Network
Lasseter Tractor Company Inc. Mercier Orchards
American Peanut Growers Group LLC
Newton Crouch Inc.
American Proteins Inc. At the Table PR ChemNut
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Stone Mountain Memorial Association
Fort Valley State University
Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition
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Georgia Grown is published annually by Journal Communications Inc. and is distributed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. For advertising information or to direct questions or comments about the magazine, contact Journal Communications Inc. at (615) 771-0080 or by email at email@example.com.
Georgia Blueberry Commission
georgia DePartment oF agriculture:
Commissioner gary w. BlacK Chief Operating Officer Billy sKaggs Chief Administration Officer Dr. james sutton Chief Security Officer stewart HicKs Director of Marketing jacK sPruill Chief Information Officer mary KatHryn yearta Special Projects Coordinator trey joyner Special thanks to all Department staff for their support. For more information about the Georgia Department of Agriculture, contact: Jack Spruill, Director of Marketing 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW, Atlanta, GA 30334 (404) 656-3368 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org No public funds were used in the publishing of this magazine. © Copyright 2012 Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 400, Franklin, TN 37067, (615) 771-0080. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent. Member Member The Association of Magazine Media Custom Content Council
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Urban Ag Council Georgia
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Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources
Georgia Forestry Association
White Oak Pastures
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