Georgia vegetable farmers facing higher costs because of pandemic

Farmers' food market stall with variety of organic vegetable. Vendor serving and chating with customers. farm tile market tile / Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic that gave Georgia's $2.6 billion vegetable industry an unexpected boost last year is delivering a kick in the teeth in 2021.

In 2020, the state's farmers had strong sales because Americans working from home and government aid programs purchased more. But this year, growers are contending with increased expenses for everything from workers to cardboard boxes.

The costs of "our boxes are up 20%," said Sam Watson, co-owner of the 700-acre Chill C Farms in Moultrie. "We are paying double for wooden pallets. Our chemical costs are up. Labor's up. Fertilizer's up."

At the same time, Watson said, "we sold squash today for $6 a box. That is what I sold it for in our first crop in 2007."

Increased transportation costs means the buyer will spend $8 to ship that $6 box of squash to some place like Philadelphia.