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The state of Georgia has a total area of 152,750 sq km
(58,977 sq mi), including 2618 sq km (1011 sq mi) of
inland water and 122 sq km (47 sq mi) of coastal waters
over which the state has jurisdiction. The state is the 24th
largest in the country and has the largest land area of any
state east of the Mississippi River. Georgia has a top range
north to south of 515 km (320 mi) and east to west of 441
km (274 mi). The mean elevation is about 180 m (about
600 ft). Georgia occupies parts of six natural regions, or
physiographic provinces. They are the Atlantic Coastal
Plain, the Gulf Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, the Blue Ridge
province, the Ridge and Valley province, and the
Appalachian Plateaus. Almost the whole area of Georgia
was forested in early colonial times, and about three-fifths
of the land is still covered by forests and woodlands.
Mixed forests of deciduous and coniferous trees cover
most of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountain areas.
Normal trees in these areas include species of ash, beech,
birch, hemlock, hickory, poplar, sweetgum, sycamore, red
oak, white oak, and Virginia, shortleaf, and loblolly pines.
Pines which dominate on the Piedmont are loblolly and
shortleaf pine trees. On the coastal plains, slash, loblolly,
and longleaf pines are found. The live oak, the state tree,
thrives in the southern part of the coastal plains. Palmettos
are found in areas of sandy soil, and bald cypresses and
tupelo gums are commonly found in swampy and badly
drained areas. Spanish moss festoons many of the
cypresses in Okefenokee Swamp. Other trees that are
found in the state include the red maple, sweet bay, black
cherry, butternut, sassafras, southern magnolia,
cottonwood, locust, and elm. Flowering plants grow in
great abundance in Georgia. Those natural to the state
include the trillium, galax, bellwort, hepatica, mayapple,
bloodroot, violet, columbine, lady slipper, and Cherokee
rose, which is the stte of Georgia’s state flower. Among the
many shrubs and tiny flowering trees common in Georgia
are species of laurel, mimosa, redbud, flowering dogwood,
rhododendron, and flame azalea. White-tailed deer are the
most common of the larger mammals found in the state.
There are black bears in the northern mountains and in
Okefenokee Swamp, and bobcats roam many of the rural
areas. Red foxes, gray foxes, muskrats, raccoons,
opossums, flying squirrels, foxes and gray squirrels are
abundant in the forested areas, and otter and beaver are
met in many swamps and rivers. In the mid-1990s there
was about 43,000 farms in Georgia. Only about two-fifths
had annual sales of $10,000 or more. Many of the rest of
the farms were hobbies for operators who held different
jobs. Farmland occupied 4.9 million hectares (12.1 million
acres), of which less than one-third was harvested. The rest
was mostly pasture or woodland. The sale of livestock and
livestock products accounts for about three-fifths of total
yearly farm income. The sale of produce accounts for the
rest. Broilers (young chickens raised for meat) are the
state's most valuable farm product, followed by peanuts
and beef cattle. The state's other important farm products
include eggs, hogs, milk, vegetables, greenhouse seedlings,
tobacco, soybeans, corn, pecans, and cotton. Georgia
leads all other states in the production of peanuts and
pecans and is second after Arkansas in the producing of
broilers. Until the Civil War, nearly all the cotton during
most of the 19th century, cotton was the main crop. Itwas
grown on plantations by black slaves, who picked it by
hand. After slavery was abolished most blacks, having no
land of their own, became sharecroppers, who got their
farm and family supplies on credit from the planters and
were in assumption paid a share of the crop income. Under
this system, cotton dominated the economy more than ever.
However, during the 1920s the boll weevil, a tiny beetle
that eats the growing cotton boll, devastated much of the
cotton crop and infested great areas of the cotton-growing
lands of the South. Moreover, at about that same time,
crop yields began to fall, and it became clear that nearly
200 years of constant cotton cultivation had ruined the soil.
Efforts were made to vary the state's farm economy. As a
result, many cotton lands were planted in other crops or
switched over to pasture. Cotton cultivation was resumed
after methods were found to control the boll weevil, but
cotton acreage was greatly reduced. Beginning in the
1940s, thousands of farms were consolidated and
mechanized and the demand for farm workers decreased.
As farms consolidated their size got larger, and by the
mid-1990s each averaged 114 hectares (281 acres). Most
farms are owner-operated. Georgia is divided into 159
counties, most governed by boards of elected
commissioners. In the others, local