With his purchase of J.B. Anderson Peanut & Grain Co. on the last day of 2012, Kevin Deal diversified his business portfolio from farming to include wholesale and retail agribusiness too. Investments he continues to make are aimed at revitalizing and expanding the long established company in Nevils.
J.B. Anderson Peanut & Grain continues as a peanut buying point for Birdsong Peanuts and handles grain from farmers for sale to various processors. On the supply side, J.B. Anderson Peanut & Grain sells fertilizer, seed, feed, farm chemicals, sprayer parts and crush-and-run gravel. Beginning this month, Deal will expand his company's offerings to the home and consumer market with the opening of Crossroads Outdoor Center, a full-service Husqvarna mower and power implement dealership that will carry other tools, garden fertilizers and even fishing supplies.
For Deal, who farmed 3,200 acres as recently as two years ago, the purchase of the peanut and grain company from Buddy Anderson came as an alternative to investing heavily in irrigation. Instead, Deal reduced his farming to about 1,000 acres but bought into other phases of agriculture.
"I was weighing my options. I was contemplating putting in irrigation on a lot of land and then when Buddy was getting ready to retire, well, I feel like this place has got a lot of potential to grow and increase, so I decided to try it instead," Deal said.
The Anderson agricultural processing tradition in Nevils dates back to the late John B. Anderson's establishment of a cotton gin at the site in 1938, said his son, Buddy Anderson. His father installed a grain elevator in 1964, and J.B. Anderson Peanut & Grain Co. was established, with other family members joining the ownership, in 1970. They added fertilizer sales in 1978.
J.B. Anderson and his wife Lillian, his daughter Rachel Anderson Turner and her husband Preston Turner, Buddy Anderson and his wife Pat were owners in the company until J.B. Anderson's death in 1996. Buddy and Pat Anderson purchased full ownership in 2008.
Some health issues Buddy was having prompted them to seek retirement, and a buyer for the business, a few years earlier than originally planned, he said. This coincided with Deal's own decisions regarding his farming.
Deal, 48, has farmed all his adult life. He currently grows peanuts and cotton, but also plants corn, soybeans and wheat some years, depending on the market for each. He started farming on his own around 1985, then partnered with his father, Charles A. Deal, from 1988 until his death in a boating accident in 2007.
The Andersons and Deals had long been friends, and Kevin Deal was a customer and client of the company he now owns.
Some of Deal's investment is still taking shape. Last week, a crew from Merritt Mechanical Fabrication was working on what will be, when hoisted into place, four elevated hopper tanks for filling outgoing peanut trucks. These will increase by 300 tons the facility's current storage capacity of about 8,000 tons.
Filled from the main elevator, the overhead tanks will also increase efficiency and speed, Deal said. He has also replaced the old peanut sampler with a new one in a different location selected to improve traffic flow through the facility.
A new drying shelter with 10 large dryers is already standing, and the company has purchased 20 drying floor trailers for big rigs.
Deal brought in another Bulloch County farmer, Greg Sikes, who also owns a trucking company, as general manager of J.B. Anderson Peanut & Grain.
"We're trying to get it to where it can handle the new, bigger style of farming," Sikes said. "We still want to be able to help our small customers too, but with today's machinery, productivity has increased so much you've got to be able to handle the increased production."
Meanwhile, Brandon Eskew, manager of the soon-to-open Crossroads Outdoor Center, and company maintenance man Scott McCormick were busy assembling mowers and other machines. Crossroads, in the newly remodeled J.B. Anderson fertilizer building across the street from the Nevils Volunteer Fire Department, will carry Husqvarna chainsaws, trimmers, blowers, commercial and residential lawn tractors and zero-turn mowers. It's authorized as a Briggs & Stratton and Kohler dealer and for Kawasaki small-engine repair. The center will carry hand tools such as rakes and post-hole diggers, and fishing reels and lures. It will offer rental equipment for homeowners and contractors, such as generators and pressure washers.
Eskew, who previously worked for another local agribusiness, is also the contact person for J.B. Andersons' bulk fertilizer sales.
Customers still see several of the same people who worked for the Andersons.
These include Patrick McCormick and David Williams, both there more than 35 years, and Terry Turner, involved with his parents' and grandparents' company off and on for more than 30 years. Ruby Anderson, Buddy Anderson's daughter-in-law, has worked there fewer years but also remains with the company.
Keeping long-time employees was a gentlemen's agreement between Deal and Anderson, who said he is pleased the company is also keeping his family's name.
"I wish him all success," Anderson said.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.