Georgia farmers are sharing their hardships in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, which struck the heart of rural Georgia in early October. Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black and the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) have traveled to affected farms throughout the state and listened to the stories of farmers and farm families impacted by the storm. Each narrative returns to a similar message: Georgia agriculture, the state’s No. 1 industry, faces a generational impact.
“A lot of older farmers were getting ready to (retire). And they were hoping, ‘Well, if I have one more good crop I’m going to hand it down to the next generation and not have to pass the debt down.’ Now a lot of that is gone. A lot of the big plans for some of the farmers are gone,” explained Blake Bledsoe, a farmer in Hawkinsville, Ga.
Hurricane Michael’s track took a staggering toll on agriculture, which is a $73.3 billion industry in Georgia, making it the No. 1 contributor to the state’s economy. Damage estimates as of Oct. 25 exceed $2 billion in direct commodity loss. Cotton loss is $550 million; vegetables, $480 million; pecans, $560 million; poultry, $25 million; peanuts, $20 million; timber, $374 million; and the landscape and green industry, $13 million.
“We have been knocked down, but we will not give up. We have our faith. We have each other. We will get through this. Stay strong, farmers. We are in this together,” said Casey Cox, a sixth-generation farmer at Longleaf Ridge in Camilla, Ga.
This aerial footage comes from Commissioner Black’s damage assessment flyover of Southwest Georgia on October 12, 2018. It shows destruction of much of the poultry, pecans, peanuts, and cotton that are the livelihoods of many farmers in that corner of the state.