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News and views from sizzling Atlanta

The 15th fastest-growing city in the nation, Atlanta is a thriving transportation hub for the United States as well as countries across the globe. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest airport in the world with daily direct flights to Europe, South America, and Asia. With more than 1,000 international businesses operating in the city, Georgia’s capital has emerged as a thriving banking center and is now home to 13 Fortune 500 companies.

In the past couple of decades, the Big Peach has experienced a virtual population explosion. Not only has the state of Georgia seen rising population figures (from just under 5.5 million in 1980 to 9.8 million in 2011), but so has the increasingly popular “Hotlanta.” 

According to most recent U.S. Census estimates, Atlanta’s population grew by 3 percent in little over a year from April 2010 to July 2011. Though Atlanta is home to an estimated 432,427 residents, the city’s metro population has climbed by nearly 40 percent over the past decade to 4.1 million people. 

Atlanta State  Farmers Market 

Founded in 1837, Atlanta started off as a railroad town.  Yet agriculture—Georgia’s oldest and largest industry—has long played a major role in the city’s economy.  Each year, the agriculture industry contributes more than $65 billion to the state’s $700 billion-plus economy, according to the Georgia Farm Bureau.  Agriculture is also a major source of jobs, with one in seven Georgians working in agriculture, forestry, or a related field.

Georgia is also one of the U.S.’s top exporters of agricultural products, which reached $3 billion in 2012.  The state’s top international shipping destination is Canada, which claimed 18 percent of total ag exports and is the Peach State’s fastest growing market.  The Georgia Department of Economic Development has also been paying close attention to Hong Kong, the gateway to China—Georgia’s second-fastest growing export market for agricultural products.  In terms of export shipments by commodity, the state ranked in the top five for tree nuts (with  California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas); the top ten for both fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as processed fruit and vegetables, and twelfth in total U.S. exports by value.  

The heartbeat of Georgia’s agricultural industry is the Atlanta State Farmers Market—the biggest market in the Southeast and one of the largest in the world.  Founded in 1939, the market originally operated out of Atlanta’s West End before relocating to its current facility in 1959.

Located in Forest Park, an industrial district not far from the Hartsfield-Jackson airport, the market serves as a major fresh produce hub and distribution point for restaurants, retailers, and other buyers in the city, state, and entire Southeast.  The Atlanta State Farmers Market is owned by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, which leases space to the distributors.

It’s no wonder the Atlanta Market has been dubbed “The World’s Largest Roadside Fruit and Vegetable Stand.”  The massive market encompasses 150 acres of completely fenced space, bursting with vendors, retail and wholesale activities, shipping facilities, and expansive storage buildings.  The market also features administrative facilities, a restaurant, a welcome center, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) federal-state office, and a massive support staff, including its own police presence.