Monday, February 16, 2015

Farming in Cobb County?

"The U.S. Agricultural Census of 1850 reports that in Cobb County the county's largest crops were cotton, wheat, corn, oats, rice, and sweet potatoes." (from Mable Property Rural Preservation Plan)
The Mable House planning document linked above also tells that, after the Civil War, chickens became a larger part of agricultural activity in the county, and, after WWI, cotton ranked higher in productivity. By 1935, Cobb County's farms were producing "cotton, corn, hay, truck garden crops, and sweet potatoes." After WWII, agriculture in Cobb County was still an important economic activity, but the amount of land in agricultural production has been in decline, generally, since then.

Today, as area residents consider beginning new agricultural businesses, UGA's consumer horticulturalist Bob Westerfield has some words of advice, offered through an interview published on Georgia FACES: 
“Think small to begin with, unless you have a lot of help and equipment,” he said. “I recommend a quarter- or half-an-acre plot.”

Starting small means that less expensive equipment (shovels and hoes versus tillers and tractors) can get the job done, and expenses for water and labor will be lower. Westerfield also emphasizes that there is more to consider in running a small farm than just growing the food:
“In most cases for a roadside stand, you need a business license. If you are selling processed foods, like pickled okra or jellies, you need a cottage food license.”
UGA's publication "Is your agribusiness project feasible?" offers guidelines for working out whether a new agricultural business project has good market potential.

UGA's Merritt Melancon, in the Georgia FACES article "UGA forms statewide partnership to create training program for beginning farmers," describes additional help for new farmers that is scheduled to be available in October of 2015. The program will include a series of short courses in business planning, fruit and vegetable production, and goat husbandry.

The courses are being developed as a cooperative effort of UGA's Small Business Development Center, UGA's College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Georgia Organics, Fort Valley State University, AgSouth Farm credit, and other partners. For more information about Georgia's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, see