As the most feasible cash product generated by small farmers, hogs and other livestock were farmed in the mountains and wiregrass and sold to plantation markets. Rice remained one of the most profitable crops on the coast, with Georgia behind only South Carolina as the nation's greatest rice grower. Tobacco also was grown in the state for both commercial and medicinal purposes.
Corn was the leading crop produced in Georgia before the war. It accounted for more than half of all agricultural exports and the state's economy depended heavily upon it. Cotton was the second major crop, but its production wasn't significant enough to have a major impact on the state's economy.
The main industry in Georgia during this time period was agriculture. The state's soil was not suitable for large farms like those in North Carolina or Virginia, so most land was owned by small farmers or planted directly to timber. In addition to running their own businesses, many farmers raised livestock for sale at local markets or shipped their products to market in cities across the country. The lack of large industries in Georgia led to the development of smaller towns with shops, restaurants, and hotels where farmers from across the state could trade goods and stories.
The American Civil War broke out in 1861 and within two years all available farmland in the state would be needed for the growing of corn.
Profits from the cultivation and sale of the crop were the foundation of many huge fortunes in coastal Georgia throughout time. In the first decade of the twentieth century, commercial rice production in Georgia and other areas of the South Atlantic region almost ceased. But the state's role as a major producer of the grain was revived when World War II brought about new markets for it abroad and at home.
After the war, farmers again began cultivating rice on a large scale. By 1955, more than 10,000 acres were under cultivation in Georgia. The crop accounted for more than 10% of the total acreage planted with food crops that year. However, rice production soon fell victim to the development of other agricultural commodities such as cotton and wheat. In 1975, Georgians grew only about 2,500 acres of rice compared with 1 million acres in Louisiana, the next largest producer. Since then, the number of growers has declined further due to difficulties associated with irrigation, insect pests, and low prices.
Currently, rice is grown by about 150 farmers across the state. Most are located in Burke and Richmond counties. The crop provides employment for about 40 farm workers during its harvest season which lasts approximately six weeks. Rice is harvested by cutting the plants down before they mature into seed pods. After the rice stalks are cut, they are left to dry in the field until ready for market or storage.
Indigo and rice were the principal cash crops of South Carolina and Georgia. Indigo was grown for its dyeing pigment, which was used to color cloth and leather goods. Rice was cultivated for food as well as for making into clothing and paper.
The Indians used sharp sticks to dig up parts of the indigo plant. They then crushed the beans underfoot to release the juice that was collected in nets hung across ponds or ditches. The bean juice was heated until all the starch had dissolved. Indigo liquor was stored in containers made from clay or wood. It could be drunk right away or left to ferment into wine.
Indian farmers raised several varieties of cotton, but especially two kinds known as "sea Island" and "gumbo." Sea Island cotton is still grown today in the same areas where it was first developed over 200 years ago. It is long and lanky with yellow flowers that develop into white balls with red stripes when mature. Its fiber is about half as thick as wool's and almost twice as strong. Gumbo cotton is short and stocky with greenish flowers that turn brown when ripe. Its fiber is about one-third as thick as wool and less than half as strong.
Cotton, corn, tobacco, sugar, and rice were the five principal commodities of the southern agricultural economy, with cotton production concentrating in the Deep South (Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana). Wheat was the major crop in the western parts of the region, while in the east tobacco was important. The northern part of Virginia grew wheat and barley. There were also small amounts of fruit grown in the south for market sale.
The industrial revolution brought new industries to the south, such as textile mills and factories producing iron products. A growing population needed more food than what could be produced by farms alone, so farmers turned to livestock raising - especially cattle - for additional income. By 1860, one out of every eight people living in the United States was a slave. Although slavery was banned by law, it still existed in secret throughout the south. In many cases, slaves were treated better than their owners expected. For example, slaves often ran away from their masters to find work in nearby towns or cities. This behavior is documented in letters written by southern landowners at the time. They complained that their best workers were always gone, which left them with no choice but to hire outside labor at higher prices.
After slavery was abolished by federal law in 1865, many former slave owners lost money when they tried to sell their plantations.
Broilers (chickens) were Georgia's most valuable product, followed by cotton, eggs, beef, and wood. Corn, peanuts, dairy, horses, pecans, blueberries, and greenhouse goods rounded up the remaining top 12 commodities in Georgia.
Georgia is a big producer of corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat; it also exports timber and livestock. The state's economy is based on services and manufacturing, with an emphasis on tourism and hospitality.
Georgia has developed its own food products such as Baked Beans, Grits, Hush Puppies, Sweet Potatoes, and Tabasco Sauce. It is also known for its wine and sweet potatoes. In addition, there are several generic and brand name medications produced in Georgia. The drug industry accounts for more than 9% of the state's revenue.
Georgia has a large agricultural industry that supplies meat, milk, eggs, honey, vegetables, fruits, fish, shrimp, and grain to feed all those people. In fact, according to the USDA, Georgia is ranked first in the nation in production of poultry, pork, and cattle. And it's not far from New York to Chicago via plane or rail - the state is at the heart of the eastern industrial corridor. Georgia's economy is based on services and government employment, with an emphasis on business services and trade.