In 2008 there were 47,800 farms in Georgia. Only 37 percent had annual sales of $10,000 or more. Many of the rest of the farms were sidelines for operators who held other jobs. Farmland occupied 4.2 million hectares (10.4 million acres). Crops were planted on 44 percent of all farmland. The rest was mostly pasture or woodland.
The sale of livestock and livestock products accounts for 63 percent of total annual farm income. The sale of crops accounts for the rest. Poultry, and especially broilers (young chickens raised for meat), are the state’s most valuable farm product, earning four-fifths of the income from livestock sales. The state’s other major farm products include eggs, hogs, milk, vegetables, greenhouse seedlings, tobacco, soybeans, corn, pecans, and cotton. Georgia leads all other states in the production of broilers, peanuts, and pecans.
During most of the 19th century, cotton was the chief crop. Until the Civil War, nearly all the cotton was grown on plantations by black slaves, who picked it by hand. After slavery was abolished most blacks, having no land of their own, became sharecroppers, who got their farm and household supplies on credit from the planters and were in theory paid a share of the crop income. Under this system, cotton dominated the economy more than ever.
However, during the 1920s the boll weevil, a tiny beetle that feeds on the growing cotton boll, destroyed much of the cotton crop and infested great areas of the cotton-growing lands of the South. Moreover, at about that same time, crop yields began to decline, and it became clear that nearly 200 years of continuous cotton cultivation had impoverished the soil. Efforts were made to diversify the state’s farm economy. As a result, many cotton lands were planted in other crops or converted to pasture.
Cotton cultivation was resumed after methods were found to control the boll weevil, but cotton acreage was greatly reduced. Beginning in the 1940s, thousands of farms were consolidated and mechanized and the demand for farm workers decreased. As farms consolidated their size increased, and by the mid-1990s each averaged 114 hectares (281 acres). In the late 1990s a new trend toward more farms each with smaller acreage was noticeable. In 2008 the average Georgian farm operated on 88 hectares (218 acres) of land.
Peanuts, one of the state’s chief crops, are raised as a rotation crop on many cotton farms, and they are also a specialty on other farms. Peanuts are grown in Georgia for human consumption, for hog feed, and for a variety of industrial and commercial uses. Tobacco cultivation is concentrated in central and southern Georgia. Corn, used mainly for livestock feed, is grown throughout the state. Cotton is grown on the Coastal Plain and in the Piedmont. Formerly the primary crop, cotton is now planted in rotation with other crops important to the state’s economy.
Cotton production increased rapidly in the 1990s, reaching levels not seen since the late 1920s. Recent harvest levels are attributed to a growing demand for cotton as well as the higher costs of production on irrigated lands in the West. Machinery has replaced much of the hand labor once needed in the cotton fields. Pecans are grown around Albany, and tung nuts, used in making paints and varnishes, are produced from tung trees grown around Thomasville. Watermelons are a specialty of farmers in the warmer coastal areas, and Macon and Fort Valley are the centers of a prosperous peach-growing industry, the state’s principal fruit-growing activity. Other fruit and vegetables grown in Georgia include apples, grapes, pears, plums, strawberries, asparagus, beans, celery, cucumbers, onions, peas, peppers, and tomatoes. "Georgia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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