Georgia Farm produce patriotic, sweet commodities

Published 7:00 pm Thursday, March 10, 2016

AMERICUS — Election years bring out national colors all over the country. Georgia agriculture is happy to make its contribution.
The state’s farmers produce plenty of red (apples and strawberries), white (milk, cotton and sweet onions) and blue (blueberries) to keep the patriotic colors and the Georgia economy humming.
“Here in Sumter County as in the entire state, there are farmers who are working to meet their neighbors’ needs for food, clothing, shelter, education, employment, even entertainment,” said Charles Hodges, Sumter County Farm Bureau president. “We take great pride in supporting so many aspects of American life.”
Agriculture contributed $74.3 billion to the state’s economy in 2014, according to the University of Georgia’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development (CAED). Food and fiber production provide more than 411,500 jobs. In 132 counties, total farm gate value exceeded $20 million in 2014. Farm gate value is the amount farmers are initially paid for their crops minus production expenses.
Virtually anywhere you travel in Georgia, farmers are producing something for your sweet tooth. In North Georgia, there are apples aplenty. South Strawberries are produced all over the state, as is milk. Georgia is also a top-producing state of blueberries.
Farmers’ contributions aren’t limited to production of raw commodities. A growing segment of agriculture is agritourism, where farmers welcome the public to their farms for fun, interactive experiences in addition to the chance to buy food directly from the source.
Georgia farmers are some of the best in the world at what they do. For years Georgia has been one of the top producers of broiler chickens, peanuts and cotton. More recently the state has burst onto the national blueberry scene, overtaking Michigan in 2014 as the nation’s top producer of cultivated blueberries.
In celebration of farming, Georgia Agriculture Awareness Day is scheduled to take place from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 15 at the Georgia Depot in Atlanta. The event will be hosted by Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, with a program beginning at 12:30 p.m. Event attendees will also have the chance to sample original food products from the finalists in the 2016 Flavor of Georgia Contest, which recognizes products that use Georgia-grown commodities created by Georgia entrepreneurs, and the 2016 Sunbelt Expo Georgia Farmer of the Year will be announced.
National Agriculture Day and Week is observed in March to coincide with the planting of spring crops. County Farm Bureaus and agriculture organizations will hold events in their local communities as schedules allow throughout the month of March to raise awareness of agriculture. National Ag Day is also March 15.
“We as farmers know that our neighbors are depending on us,” Hodges said. “We take that responsibility seriously, and we’re always working to improve what we produce and how we produce it.”
The top 10 agricultural commodities grown in Georgia, based on their 2014 farm gate value are: broilers, beef, cotton, eggs, timber, peanuts, dairy, blueberries, horses and pecans. Each of those commodities generated more than $313 million in farm gate value according to the UGA CAED.
American farmers have tackled many challenges in feeding a growing population. In the 1960s, the average American farmer produced enough food to feed 25 people. Today, the average American farmer feeds 155 people.
The world’s population is expected to increase to 11 billion by 2050, and the world food demand could double in that time, underscoring the important role farmers play as providers for the human race. Emerging technologies are helping increase farm production, and farmers are taking innovative approaches to continue meeting the demands for agricultural products.
The Sumter County Farm Bureau was established in 1952. It is affiliated with the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation headquartered in Macon. Founded in 1937, Georgia Farm Bureau is the state’s largest general farm organization and has 157 county offices. Its volunteer members actively participate in local, state and national activities that promote agriculture awareness to their non-farming neighbors. GFB offers its members a wide variety of benefits, including insurance, but enrollment in any of the member benefits is optional and not a requirement for membership.