How people farm as well as what people grow varies from country to country, state to state, county to county, and farm to farm. It is easy to acknowledge only our own backyards. When talking about how different other areas, or forms of agriculture are, we also need to recognize how different we are in the eyes of others looking at us! So, let me tell y’all about how Georgia is different! Hopefully this will shed some light on all aspects that Non-GA folks are curious about – The ups, downs, diversity of crops, weather, equipment, and other random Georgia things.
First lets talk about this weather. Georgia weather is definitely a woman. It can never make its mind up! We have the hottest of the hot (triple digits for consecutive days in the summer) as well as some freezing cold (accompanied by lovely ice storms.) The hot weather is exceptionally brutal with the high (100% most days) level of humidity. When it is 98 degrees with 100% humidity it will take your breath away, not to mention good hair days are as rare as unicorns in these conditions. The high temperatures in the summer with little rain makes our dry land acres less productive for sure. Cotton will burn up in a skinny minute. In some areas of the state we don’t plant the fields unless they are irrigated. Irrigation is a hefty investment, but is the best form of insurance here. If you look at a farmer’s balance sheet and think they are leveraged a bit high, take a look to see if the debt was to install irrigation. The benefit to the operation definitely outweighs the temporarily high debt load.
Now lets take on the diversity of crops here. We grow a lot of stuff! Just look at the picture for this post and that is really just the highlight reel. We are known as the peach state, but truth is we don’t have an overabundance of peaches! Our top commodities are actually poultry, cotton, and peanuts. However; do continue to refer to me as a pretty Georgia peach as that rolls off the tongue a bit sweeter than a pretty Georgia chicken, cotton boll, or peanut. Beyond those top 3 we also produce the “normal” row crop suspects of corn, wheat, and soybeans. Additionally, we have some non-usual suspects such as blueberries, pecans (pee-cans not pee-cons), olives, cattle (beef and dairy), some peaches, and who can forget Vidalia onions! There are also many vegetable farmers, organic farms, greenhouses, grass fed beef, and more. Like I said this is just the highlight reel. Our diversity gets a lot of attention in the up and coming business of Agri-Tourism. Folks want to see what all we have going on here and it is a lot! On top of that they have some very friendly southerners to show them around.
This same “shining attribute” of diversity can also mean extra $$. I mean the spending of it not making it, I hope we make $$ too but… I am talking about what we have to spend on additional items needed to stretch beyond growing just one thing (or multiple things that the same types of equipment can handle). Some here do focus on just one crop, but those (and there are many) that manage a rotation of crops will need several different pieces of very different equipment to get the job done. On top of the “usuals” of tractors, combines, and sprayers, you will also see the following: peanut combines, cotton pickers, and shakers just to name a few. The shakers are for pecans not peanuts, if you ask me where the peanut trees are in Georgia I will kindly tell you to look beside the closest chicken nugget plant.
I’m not going to sit here and separate Pros from Cons. What some may deem as a Con (Ahem – weather so hot it will make you re-think life) others may love to have. Same for Pros, some may think it is wonderful and other may say, “Ummm Georgia….girl you can keep that…” That is how it would be anywhere though. Things we may hate where we live/farm others would appreciate. That’s why it is so great to read about, learn from, and visit, other areas in farming/agriculture. We can all benefit from understanding other areas because 1. It is always great to learn new stuff (right?!) 2. Appreciate what we have that is great 3. Find out that what we think is bad others may have something way worse 4. Inspire us to try something new. So, that winds up GA farming and some insight into why it is a good idea to peek over the neighbor’s fence.