I am too early for the Georgia snow. I saw a couple small flurries over the past few days, but I am about two weeks too early for the
The “Georgia snow” is a term some of the locals use to describe the full-blown cotton harvest. And the fact that it is also ranging between 85 to 90 F and quite humid is another reason there is no snow of any kind.
But I did get to see cotton fields on this trip. Plenty of them. I imagine when fields are in full-blown harvest mode the 1.3 million acres of cotton in Georgia might be similar to the canola bloom in Western Canada — although fields aren’t as big.
I had a brief visit with shirttail relative Vance Williams on this trip. I met Vance once or twice about 50 years ago when he and his wife Cynthia and daughter Anne visited the family farm near Ottawa. My grandparents were Cynthia’s aunt and uncle.
A whole lifetime has passed since we first met. Cynthia has passed away, but Vance still lives on his family farm near Camilla, south Georgia. He is 85, and long been retired. His land is rented out to other farmers.
The Williams family once had a big plantation, although I think that largely means they farmed a lot of acres at one time. Vance grew mostly cotton and peanuts during his career. There is also quite a bit of corn in this area now and also irrigation. Vance never had irrigation on his farm. He says it is needed now mostly for corn production, but once the systems are installed irrigation is used on all crops in rotation.
The flowering period is over and on my travels I saw a few fields where the cotton bolls are just starting to open, exposing the real thing…cotton. Before harvest, fields of the knee-high crop will be aerial sprayed with a defoliant to knock off all the leaves and then the harvesters will roll through. Yields can range from 700 to 1000 pounds per acre.
Georgia also produces about 45 per cent of the U.S. peanut crop. The state produces about 1.3 million acres and reports show with improved production practices and improved varieties farmers are seeing record yields of more than 4,000 pounds per acre. From the highway, peanuts look like a good stand of alfalfa after the first cut. The crop stands about a foot tall. At harvest the crop has to be first turned over to expose the peanut pods or shells to the sun to dry for a couple days. The harvester comes through and takes the shells. The crop residue is often windrowed and baled into peanut hay for livestock feed.
I did see a few beef cattle on my travels— the herds I did see were black Angus. . The state has about 500,000 head of beef although Vance says very little is processed here anymore, with most cattle shipped to plants further north.
Another big crop in this part of the world are pecans. With about 150,000 acres, there are many pecan orchards with large stately trees. The grass is kept pretty well trimmed in the orchards and there is very little ground cover right under the trees themselves. I am sure orchards require management, but essentially when mature, the pecan clusters fall to the ground in the shell and are then vacuumed up for processing. Most orchards are well posted to keep out trespassers, as I suppose a few people have been known to help themselves when the crop is on the ground. I didn’t really look for any raw nuts to steal. It is much easier to walk into a store or just about any gas station and find pecan treats, ranging from bags of nuts to pralines, which are cookie-size candy treat. And of course for those misguided souls who aren’t watching their waistlines there is always pecan pie.
And speaking of food, a person could gain weight in this part of the country. The $8 all you can eat lunch and dinner buffet restaurants are popular here, with a wide range of common and uncommon fare, but always a large stack of southern fried chicken…or in some places, southern fried everything.
Starting today at some point I am sticking to the salads so I can look good when I get to the beach on the Virginia coast…hope it isn’t too late. (Okay, I just checked with my wife and she says that riverboat sailed a long time ago.)
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]