South Georgia farmers hope to make pomegranate the next 'big' crop

Published: Sep. 4, 2014 at 11:06 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2014 at 11:06 PM EDT
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APPLING CO., GA (WTOC) - A handful of South Georgia farmers started growing pomegranates nearly a decade ago. Now, their number is well over a hundred. One thing that could help them grow their market is production.

Many of the growers from Appling, Bacon, and nearby counties gathered Thursday to celebrate a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The $150,000 grant will go toward a piece of machinery they will share to separate the fruit from its skin. This will speed up processing and get the fruit ready either for market or for juicing.

The crop parallels the growth of blueberries in the region. Many farmers planted blueberry bushes after the domestic tobacco market dwindled. Georgia now boasts the largest production in the nation.

"When we started blueberries around here, some people may have thought it strange," said Brantley Morris, president of the Georgia Pomegranate Growers Association. "So this could take off the same way."

Pomegranates grow in the fall and winter, so the harvest and processing would come during the blueberry's off season. But growers could use some of the same labor and facilities.

"We can get idle capacity working year round," said Congressman John Barrow. "That means more crops, more jobs, and what people like: the healthiest, safest and most abundant food supply in the world."

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