Is GA produce under-utilized? -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Is GA produce under-utilized?

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  Agriculture is Georgia's top industry with a total annual economic impact of $58 billion, yet we spend less on locally grown products than people in many other states.

A University of Georgia study found if we all spent $10 a week on Georgia products, it would have a $1.9 billion impact on our economy.

Right now only a few Georgia grown peaches remain at roadside stands, but there is plenty of other locally grown produce, including peanuts and tomatoes. Those who take advantage of home grown items say they get a better product at a better price.

Business was bustling for a Monday morning at Mark's Melon Patch in Sasser. Peanuts coming in, proof for customers when they shop at Mark's the produce doesn't travel far from the field to the store.

"I trust the local farmers more, it's normally a lot fresher," said Chris Jones, a Columbus businessman.

John Morrissey makes it a priority to stop at Mark's Melon Patch when he travels from St. Mary's to Auburn and back.

"We particularly like the personal service that you get and they will go around and they'll thump the melon for you and tell you this is a good one or this one's probably sweeter than another," said Morrissey.

Interest in locally grown food and farmers markets like Mark's in Sasser and the Kearce Produce Stand on Palmyra Road in Albany is growing.

"People are a lot more conscious now about where their food is coming from and that the food is grown in a responsible manner, that's getting to be a big thing," said Mark Daniel, Mark's Melon Patch Owner.

Especially with recent food borne illness recalls. While freshness is important for some it comes down to dollars and cents and variety.

"You can probably get a larger quantity at a cheaper price than the grocery store and then you have a different variety of other fruits as well," said Angela Hawk, a regular Mark's customer.

"Right now we're selling watermelons for three to five or six dollars and the grocery stores now they're seven or eight dollars they're having to truck them in from out of state," said Daniel.

Customers say the thought of putting their money back in the community where they live is also attractive and what's good for the local economy, is good for the community.

Mark Daniel says if more people buy from him, he can plant more acres in the fields and of course then hire more workers, adding to local jobs which ultimately helps southwest Georgia.

The economy may also be giving locally grown products a boost as people look for better prices.

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