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A Rushing family tradition
Tommy and Stevie Rushing carry on what grandfather T. E. started
W BIZ TE RUSHING
Tommy Rushing, left, and his brother Stevie Rushing operate the T.E. Rushing Company, a varied agriculture business on Harville Road. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
      The T. E. Rushing family has been part of Statesboro's farming scene for three generations encompassing almost 90 years. With peanuts in the ground, Tommie and Stevie Rushing are gearing up for another harvest at the family's peanut processing facility, the T. E. Rushing Peanut Company on Harville Road.
       "My grandfather Thomas E. Rushing, Sr., bought cotton and sold fertilizer in downtown Statesboro on Cherry Street in the 1920's," said Tommie Rushing (Thomas E. Rushing, III). "He got into the peanut business in the 1940's with my dad joining him just a few years later. We have been the T. E. Rushing Peanut Company ever since."
       The company is now being run by Tommie and Stevie Rushing with their father still contributing to the company's operation.
       "Our father, Thomas E. Rushing, II, or Eddie as his friends call him, still comes into the office just about every day," Stevie Rushing said. "He has to come in and check on everybody to make sure that we are doing what we need to be doing."
       Local farmer Lannie Lee has known the Rushings since the 1950's.
       "I remember bringing my peanuts to the T. E. Rushing Peanut Company when Eddie was a young man working with his dad," Lee said. "They have always been straight and honest people. I remember when Tommie and Stevie were just little kids. They are all very nice folks."
       In 1963, the company moved to a new facility on Zetterower Avenue, across from the Statesboro Recreation Department where it continued to operate until 1994 when it was moved to Harville Road, its current location. The Zetterower plant is still used as a storage facility today.
       "It is hard to say that a lot has changed in the peanut business over the last 40 to 50 years, but there have been some changes," Tommie Rushing said. "The number of farmers in general has contracted. Whereas we may have dealt with well over 100 farmers 20 or so years ago, we probably deal with about 40 today. We are processing the same amount of peanuts, just over far fewer farmers."
       Rushing also said transportation of peanuts has changed. "People would bring their peanuts to us in everything from the back of a pick-up truck to a trailer," he said. "Now most of the time, they bring them in semi-tractor trailer rigs. Everything is becoming bigger and more efficient."
       Not only does the T. E. Rushing Peanut Company dry, store, and buy peanuts, it also sells fertilizer and seed to farmers. "Even though the equipment that you see around here is related to peanut processing, we have always sold fertilizer," Stevie Rushing said.   "We even sell certain kinds of dog food."
       Both Tommie and Stevie came to work for their father right out of college. Tommie graduated from Georgia Southern, Stevie from the University of Georgia.
       "Even when I was at school in Athens, I knew that I wanted to come home and work for the family business," Stevie Rushing. "It was the right decision for me."
       Tommie Rushing said he expects to process between 8,000 and 10,000 tons of peanuts this year from farmers all over southeast Georgia and into South Carolina.
       "We have farmers from all of the surrounding counties and neighboring South Carolina," Rushing said. "Peanuts are still a big bread-and-butter crop in this part of the state. The price of peanuts is somewhat depressed, so this will be a very interesting year."
       Mike Waters of Waters Farms also commented on the current price of peanuts.
       "We farm about 1,000 acres, and 180 of those will be peanuts this season," Waters said. "The price of peanuts is off a little bit, because there is a big supply in storage. That could be because the demand was lessened due to the peanut product scare earlier this year. We just hope the price rebounds somewhat when we begin to harvest."
       Waters has worked with the Rushings for over 20 years.
       "I have been bringing them peanuts for a very long time," he said. "They are mighty good people, and have always helped me with whatever I have asked them to do. They are always willing to help in any way that they can."
       Tommie is married to Linda and they have two children, Katie and Thomas E. Rushing, IV. Stevie and his wife Debbie have two children, Sally and Steven. It is to be seen if the fourth generation of the Rushing family enters into the peanut business.