Experts say state and federal purchase programs, gradual re-openings of restaurants and increased grocery store sales saved the day in Georgia. That might mean Georgia’s vegetable farmers have avoided any disasters linked to COVID-19 lockdowns. Instead, they seem to be looking at a money-making year on crops that range from asparagus to zucchini.
Florida growers, who harvest earlier than Georgia farmers, weren’t as lucky. They lost big buyers, such as restaurants, hotels, cruise lines and schools, which typically buy 40% of all US grown produce but were forced to temporarily shut down in the spring. Farmers in the Sunshine State had to plow under thousands of acres of crops or leave them on the vine to rot.
“We were very nervous going into the season,” Brandi Corbett Hobby, head of sales for South Georgia Produce told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a story published August 12 . The company grows a wide variety of vegetables, from peppers to eggplants, on 1,500 acres, and plant both a summer and a fall crop. “We were thinking of pulling part of our crop and not planting. ... It was a record year for us.”
That’s good news not only for the farmers. Agriculture is still Georgia’s largest single industry, with a total economic impact of $76 billion, including everything from farm product sales to workers’ salaries and peripheral industries like food processing.
University of Georgia farm gate value report
South Georgia Produce and other farms in Lowndes County, sold $18.2 million of bell peppers and $5.9 million of cucumbers in 2018, according to the most recent Farm Gate Value Report by the University of Georgia. Next door, Echols County sold $65.3 million worth of bell peppers. Vegetable sales have a $2.6 billion of economic impact on the state, the report says.