By Gary W. Black, Commissioner
One of the greatest privileges I’ve had as Georgia Agriculture Commissioner is the opportunity to visit with folks across this great state and country. During my travels, I enjoy revealing the seldom-told story behind our state’s name. Most know that the State of Georgia was named after King George II of England. But many do not realize that Georgia is a feminine form of the Greek Georgios, meaning tiller of the soil, or farmer.
I believe this is significant because it illustrates that agriculture is not the No. 1 industry and primary economic driver in our state by accident. Agriculture has long shaped Georgia’s history and has been a driving force for local economies across the state. We do not farm because it is all we can do or are forced to do. We farm because it is what we want to do, because it is what we are good at, and what we were always intended to do.
Our rural communities are filled with more than farmers; we are scientists, engineers, educators, entrepreneurs, innovators, marketers and leaders. We are blessed with the perfect soil, climate and people that all combine to make Georgia Nature’s Favorite State, and for that we are so very thankful.
We are thankful that Georgia has led the country for years in the production of numerous renowned commodities that contributed more than $73.3 billion to our state’s economy and helped form the foundation for our diverse agricultural supply chain. We are thankful to be able to say that Georgia truly leads the effort in feeding, clothing and housing our great nation.
Despite our many blessings, Georgia farmers are certainly no strangers to the storms of life, both literal and figurative. Late freezes, extended droughts, intensive disease and pest pressure, and excessive rains are a fact of life for all farmers. There is no argument that weather is the one component of agriculture that can never truly be managed or predicted.
Our farmers and residents of South Georgia would certainly agree that they never predicted a strong hurricane to rip through the heart of Georgia’s agricultural sector when some of our most prominent crops were at their most vulnerable. I have witnessed first-hand the devastation that Hurricane Michael left behind. The losses are severe and, in many cases, generational. The destruction of the crops hits harder than just a farmer’s bottom line – it assaults their heart and soul. Hurricane Michael didn’t just wallop the crop itself, it sucker-punched the pride and sole purpose of our farmers by not allowing them to fulfill their mission of harvesting their crops. But despite the best efforts of Hurricane Michael, I know our farmers are still thankful.
They are thankful because they know that despite the current devastation, they still have their agricultural family to help lift them back up. I’ve personally had the privilege to witness the perseverance and resilience of our farming community, as well as the generosity and kindness of neighbors, friends and even strangers.
Our farmers will persevere. They will not give up. They will overcome. They will withstand the storm and persist. They will not stop. They will sustain the course and continue their mission of feeding, clothing and housing the world. Just as our forefathers toiled the land to make Georgia one of our nation’s leaders in agriculture, our farmers today are determined to rebuild and replant to retain agriculture’s title of Georgia’s top industry. And it is for these reasons that I am forever thankful for our farmers