Middle Georgia Exports: A billion dollar business

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Middle Georgia’s agricultural industry contributes more than $1 billion to Georgia’s $13 billion dollar economy.

Houston County’s UGA extension Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent Charlotte Meeks says there are more than 47,000 farms in middle Georgia producing crops for independent retail, company contracts, and wholesale.

Three farmers share the same experience.

During spring and summer months, harvest season reaches its peak and the amount of crops exported increase.

When Dodge county commissioner Brian Watkins is not representing his district, he’s working as a partner for Walker and Watkins Farm in Rhine, Georgia turning out 100,000 bushels of cucumbers twice a year.  

“That’s 200,000 bushels of pickles. It would be about a $2 million impact on this area.”

It’s a family business that’s delivering cucumbers to Mt. Olive Pickle Company in North Carolina, which sells products to 48 of the 50 states.

The company partnered with Watkins 10 years ago to grow 400 acres of pickles using a special supply of seed.

It’s an industry in Middle Georgia that’s creating jobs.

“We employ approximately 100 to 150 people. Whether it be picking or packing these cucumbers.”

Harris Farms in DoolyCounty employs hundreds of immigrant workers during a 25 day period once a year to produce watermelons for Indian Hills packing company.

Brandon Peavy is farm manager.

“Roughly on a good day for us we get out about 1,000,000 and a half to 2 million pounds of watermelons ready, put in the box, ready to be shipped out.”

Peavy says chances are you’ve seen the company logo.

“If you see an Indian Hills produce sticker this time of year, it came from Georgia.” 

The company’s products are shipped to the Midwest, Southeast, Texas, Indiana, California and all across the United States.

Peavy adds local grocery stores such as: Kroger, Publix, Harvey’s, Dollar General, and Piggly Wiggly carry his product.

Perdue Farms in Perry produces crops that are also shipped around the world, and found in your local grocery.

The company brings in more $370 million a year from producing poultry.

“The number one crop in Georgia are broilers, which are of course chickens,” says Meeks.

Meeks adds poultry is a $4.6 billion industry.

Perdue works with more than 125 poultry producers in the Middle Georgia area, like Pam Spillers in CrawfordCounty.

“I contribute about $160,000 a year,” says Spillers. 

Perdue is the third largest poultry integrator.

Spillers laughs, “People like the chicken I guess… thank goodness.”

The company supplies more than 1,800 jobs to this area.

“Looking at the numbers I am quite impressed,” Meeks says. “I mean, we still have a lot of agriculture in this area.”

Categories: Crawford County, Dodge County, Dooly County, Local News, Special Report

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