Sarah Cook is on a mission. From north to south and east to west, she is promoting Georgia’s robust agricultural industry across the country. As the new director of domestic trade with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Cook is touting the importance of Georgia’s agricultural industry, which generates more than 383,000 jobs to the state’s workforce.
On her cross-country travels, Cook is educating consumers about the products grown and produced in Georgia, as well as how to utilize them more often, especially out of season.
“We all know that pecan pie is a great holiday tradition, but pecans have a lot of other uses like making pesto from pecans instead of pine nuts,” Cook said. “I often tell agritourism operators that what is normal to you, might be foreign to someone else.”
Known for more than peaches, Georgia is a leading producer of commodities like broilers (chickens), peanuts, blueberries, and cotton. Also, Georgia has recently experienced a surge in value-added products that include wine, artisan cheeses, and olive oil.
“Through Georgia Grown we will continue to encourage Georgians to buy local products. Now we are taking it a step further and tellingthe rest of the country what we already know here in Georgia.”As a major agricultural exporter, Georgia sends more products out of the state compared to what is retained in the state.
“We know that even in the best year if every Georgian received their complete and total fill of produce and vegetable products from Georgia’s farmers, we would still have 85 percent of our production that goes outside the state,” Cook said.
Being an ambassador for agriculture is not a new responsibility for Cook. Before joining the Georgia Department of Agriculture July 1, 2018, she spent ten years as a project manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development Center of Innovation for Agribusiness.
“In my job at the Center of Innovation, I worked with entrepreneurs wanting to create new products,” said Cook, who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in regional economic development from Georgia Southern University and a master’s degree in agricultural leadership from the University of Georgia. “It was exciting to help people start a business or create a Georgia product. I enjoyed helping them market their product, and then watched them succeed.”
Cook said now she will be able to help many Georgia agricultural vendors take their product to the next level.
“The Georgia Grown program is very successful, and here in Georgia we know the importance of buying local products,” she said. “Now we are going to move that up a notch and tell the rest of the country.”
The state’s Georgia Grown program, which has nearly 1,000 members, works to positively impact the state’s agriculture economy by connecting producers, processors, suppliers, distributors, retailers, agritourism vendors, and consumers.
“The vision is to increase the promotion of Georgia’s agricultural industry outside the state,” said Cook, who is a graduate of the University of Georgia Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry program. “Through Georgia Grown we will continue to encourage Georgians to buy local products. Now we are taking it a step further and telling the rest of the country what we already know here in Georgia.”