My wife and I moved back to Georgia almost exactly two years ago. The night we arrived, we brought with us from Mississippi a bounteous, torrential rain. (Mary Lee still cannot believe that she drove a U-Haul truck, pulling a vehicle, 400 miles through it from Jackson, Miss. I wish I had a picture.)
Since then we have only rarely seen that volume of rainwater again. On Mother's Day weekend that all changed in rural Early and Clay counties. What a joyful sight it was, too -- a gusher of at least two inches (my rain gauge tumbled in the storm, so I don't precisely know).
That momentous downpour was a Godsend. And it seemed to be another signal that 2012 will be a year of sufficient water for the farmers of Southwest Georgia whose crops have suffered severe drought for more than a few years running.
Of course, those "with water," meaning irrigation capability, have fared fairly well over this time. You saw this mostly in corn fields. The ones "without water" that were lush and green from early spring rains wilted under the broiling sun of June. These May rains that we simply did not get in recent years in the state's southwest corner are hopeful indicators that things will be different this growing season.
People who do not live in farming areas vastly underestimate the importance of agricultural production to the state and national economies. They either "just don't get it" or they refuse to acknowledge the fact that without a strong ag sector, all other pieces of the economic pie could turn unprofitable, too.
According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, this state leads the U.S. in the production of chickens, peanuts, pecans and watermelons. It ranks second in cotton production, which hurts my feelings just a tad because my little ol' Mississippi formerly held that rating behind Texas. Today, it is hard to find a field of the white gold even in that state's Delta region. Globally, it hurts my feelings some more when I read that China leads the world's cotton production.
And while we're at it, how did Georgia ever allow Alabama to make the claim that it is the "peanut capital of the world?" For one brief moment in its history, Alabama must have had some really sharp knives in its P.R. drawer.
The Georgia Farm Bureau organization claims that one in every six citizens of this state are employed in agriculture, forestry or a related field. Many people -- particularly those who reside in the "other Georgia" in the Atlanta metro -- do not buy that statistic. Farm Bureau says on its website that agriculture is worth $65 billion to Georgia's $786 billion economic output.
There are people who will also argue that farmers are not good stewards of their land. Such is an outright untruth. Virtually all farmers follow established "best conservation practices" in their crop production, and the ones who don't are scorned by their fellow growers.
Setting this vital economic engine in motion is the one ingredient provided only by the grace of God. Lord, we thank You for the recent rains. May they continue.
Mac Gordon is a retired reporter who lives near Blakely and writes an occasional opinion column for The Albany Herald.