It was clear from its beginnings that Georgia was destined to become an agricultural leader.
Agriculture is so much at the core of the state’s history that working the fields and exporting crops is enshrined in the double-sided official seal, adopted in 1798.
“The fact that Georgia’s state seal is two-sided is not commonly known to the average citizen,” says Gary Black, Georgia commissioner of agriculture. “The common side, or according to the Constitution, the reverse side, reads ‘Wisdom, Justice and Moderation.’ The front side refers to agriculture and commerce with a ship sailing to sea with exports, and an ox plowing a field. Since Georgia’s founding by Oglethorpe, agriculture has been the driving force behind our strong economy and will continue to be for years to come. Our state seal is a demonstration of the impact agriculture has on everyone’s daily life.”
The seal bears a harbor scene with a sailing ship anchored at a wharf. Workers on the wharf carry tobacco and bales of cotton onto the ship. Small boats filled with more tobacco and cotton bales appear in the foreground, and on the shore a man plows a field. Sheep graze in the background. One ship displays a U.S. flag symbolizing the exports of the state, while another boat appears to be landing, representing the state’s internal traffic.
The boats represent commerce, while the farmer and sheep represent agriculture, according to the official description provided by the Georgia Secretary of State.
The original seal featured 1799, the year of the seal’s formal adoption, instead of 1776, the year of the Declaration of Independence. Georgia legislators changed the date in 1914.
Founded in 1733 by colonists led by Gen. James Oglethorpe, Georgia’s mission was to produce agricultural commodities for export to England. Those early exports were to be silk, wine and indigo. History says Queen Caroline of England wore a dress made of Georgia silk in 1735 to celebrate her 52nd birthday.
The boat loaded with crops shown on the state seal foretold a future that likely exceeded the dreams of the early colonists. Savannah, where Oglethorpe founded the new colony, is now home to the second-largest container port in the nation. By the mid-1800s, Georgia was shipping $20 million worth of cotton overseas. In 2012, Georgia shipped more than $3 billion in agricultural products overseas.
Agriculture contributes more than $70 billion annually to Georgia’s economy, according to the Georgia Department of Agriculture – the first department of agriculture created in the nation.