By Bennett Musselman, AgriPOWER Class VIII participant
Diversity and opening our eyes to all the different hands in the agricultural community seems to be the theme in our AgriPOWER sessions. This session was no different. Our AgriPOWER class VIII has just recently returned from a trip to the south. We had the opportunity to link up with the Georgia Farm Bureau and visit various farms and agribusinesses along the path from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia. Our first stop was a very short trip from the Atlanta Airport, as in it probably took longer to get out of the Atlanta airport than it did to reach our first destination, Southern Bell Farm. Southern Bell farm has historically been a working dairy farm founded in 1938. As urban sprawl crept closer and closer to the Carter Family Farm, they had to look for alternative methods of agriculture and production. Today, Southern Bell Farm is well known for educating 40,000 students from the city of Atlanta about farming practices, annually.
After driving by an abundance of pine trees, everywhere, on both sides of the road, pine trees…… we had the opportunity to meet with a representative of the Georgia Forestry Association. Forestry, particular pine trees, is a large percentage of Georgia’s agricultural makeup. There is approximately 24.3 million acres in forestry production in the red clay soils of Georgia. Pine trees are not the only tree Georgia is known for, though. Next up was the oldest peach packing house in Georgia, Dickey Farms. Dickey Farms has approximately 1,000 acres of peach trees currently in production. We were able to visit the orchards as they are currently pruning the trees in preparation for this year’s crop. As the growing season progresses, they will have to touch each tree, by hand, approximately 8 times from pruning to picking.
Our next farm tour was set up to see production of Vidalia Onions. Some 400 acres of the sweet onions were currently in the ground. Interesting note, the Georgia Department of Agriculture has naming rights to “Vidalia Onions” and are very strict on who may use the name. Vidalia Onions are only allowed to be grown in 13 whole counties and 7 partial counties in Georgia, furthermore they are only Vidalia Onions if they are shipped during a specified time set by the Georgia Agriculture Commissioner.
As we neared the port of Savannah, we had the opportunity to visit Southern States Cotton Gin. They walked us through the ginning process from start to finish. When complete, Cotton is shipped out in 500 lb. bales to the warehouse. There they sit and wait to be made into clothing. Each 500 lb. bale will yield 200 pairs of blue jeans or 400 t-shirts. Our next stop was Ogeechee Buying Point where they purchase peanuts from farmers. The peanuts that come to this facility will be dried on the wagons, cleaned, then loaded on containers to be exported. Which leads us to our final stop, Georgia Port Authority. The Savannah port is the 3rd busiest container port in the U.S. The port sits on 1,200 acres along the river where they will load and unload some 40,000 containers on boats each day. The State of Georgia exports a majority of their poultry production through the port as well as other agricultural commodities.