MACON, Ga. — Georgia farmers grow crops, livestock and timber that feed, clothe and shelter us. That’s why Georgia Farm Bureau and other ag organizations across the state are observing Georgia Agriculture Awareness Week March 20-26 and celebrated National Ag Day on March 21. This year marks the 50th anniversary of National Ag Day, which is traditionally celebrated on or around the first day of spring.
“Observing Georgia Agriculture Awareness Week gives us all a chance to think about and celebrate the contributions farmers and agriculture make to our lives,” said Georgia Farm Bureau President Tom McCall. “Farmers feed us, grow cotton and wool for our clothes, and timber for our homes. They also provide wildlife a place to live on their farms while protecting soil and water resources using environmentally sustainable methods to grow their crops and livestock. I’m grateful God gave me the privilege of being a farmer, and I’m thankful for all my farming friends.”
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics show Georgia farmers play a big role in feeding us. They are the top peanut producers in the United States growing almost half the peanuts grown in our country, with most used to make peanut butter and snacks. Georgia farmers lead the nation in growing broilers, the chickens used to make our favorite chicken sandwiches, tenders and wings. In 2021, Georgia pecan growers led the U.S. in production of utilized pecans.
Georgia ranked second in production of watermelons and third in production of blueberries, cantaloupe and peaches, according to USDA data. The 2021 cash value of Georgia’s onion crop was second in the U.S. while Georgia’s sweet corn crop ranked third.
Georgia cotton farmers placed second in the U.S. in 2021 for both the quantity and cash value of lint and seed produced. Georgia consistently ranks as the top forestry state in the nation.
Agriculture contributed $73.2 billion to Georgia’s economy in 2021, according to the University of Georgia’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development (CAED). Georgia’s Top 10 commodities for 2021 were: broilers ($4.2 billion); cotton ($1 billion); peanuts ($776.7 million); timber ($660.6 million); beef ($658.6 million); greenhouse nurseries ($635.9 million); eggs ($635.1 million); corn ($509.1 million); pecans ($383.8 million); and blueberries ($348.7 million), the UGA CAED reports.
Food and fiber production and the process of getting the raw materials to consumers contributed 340,827 jobs for Georgians in 2021, the CAED reports. Agricultural careers include crop and livestock research, engineering, precision ag specialists, software and IT work, agribusiness management, marketing, food product development and safety, processing, retailing, ag teachers, banking, bioenergy, livestock veterinarians and others.
Besides providing our basic needs and driving Georgia’s economy, farmers also protect the environment. Farmers prevent soil erosion and water runoff by planting cover crops and using minimum tillage methods like no-till or strip-till to plant their crops. These conservation tillage methods reduce the amount of fuel farmers use and sequester carbon in the soil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Farmers use about 50% less fertilizer to produce a bushel of corn, wheat and soybeans than they did in 1980, the USDA reports. They’re able to do this by using GPS, sensors, field mapping software and tractors equipped with precision ag technology that allows farmers to apply only the fertilizer and crop protectants that they absolutely need to grow a healthy crop.
Since most Georgians are several generations removed from the farm, Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) has prepared several videos that provide insight into Georgia agriculture. If you are interested in learning more about the crops and livestock grown in Georgia visit https://gfb.ag/gaagvideo. If you would like to meet a Georgia strawberry farmer visit https://gfb.ag/strawberryfarmer.
Because early spring in Georgia is synonymous with strawberries, GFB created and provided multiple resources educators can use to teach their students how strawberries are grown. Learn how to plant strawberry plants with Laurens County Extension Agent Raymond Joyce at https://gfb.ag/learntoplantstrawberries. Visit https://gfb.ag/bookreading to hear author Shannon Anderson read her book “I Love Strawberries.”
The Georgia Department of Agriculture is also observing Georgia Agriculture Awareness Week with the following week-long agenda: Wednesday, March 22, Ag Hero Day; Thursday, March 23, Ag Literacy Day; Friday, March 24, Fork in the Road Friday; Saturday, March 25, buy Georgia Grown Day; and Sunday, March 26, Shop Local Day. Monday March 20 was Hands-On Garden Day. Tuesday, March 21 was Lead the Way Tuesday, which highlighted Georgia’s 4-H and FFA programs that develop future ag leaders. Visit http://georgiaagweek.com/AGWeek2023/ to learn more about the GDA Ag Week programs.
–Georgia Farm Bureau