By Brian Barth
Alice Rolls, executive director of Georgia Organics, keeps a chart in her Atlanta office by which she measures the success of her efforts as the leader of the Peach State’s foremost sustainable agriculture advocacy group.
In 2004 when Rolls took over as director, there were just 25 certified organic farms in the state; over the next decade, as she watched organic production explode across the country, her chart crept up ever so slowly to show 70 organic farms in the state by 2014, representing less than 4,000 acres total. By comparison, New York and Wisconsin, two states roughly the same size as Georgia, had approximately 900 and 1200 certified organic farms (representing more than 200,000 total acres in each state), respectively.
It’s not that Georgia isn’t a major agricultural state. It ranks 12th in the country in terms of total agricultural receipts (Wisconsin is 9th and New York is 28th), and it’s the nation’s top producer of broilers, peanuts, and pecans; the third biggest producer of eggs; and the fifth most-important state overall for fruit and vegetable production. Rolls was starting to wonder what she’d spent a decade fighting for.