One of Bulloch County’s most well-known people in the agriculture world, Raybon Anderson, was honored Friday by being named the 2016 Ag Partner by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Committee.
Georgia’s agriculture commissioner, Gary Black, was unable to be at the early-morning Farm City Breakfast, where Anderson was given the award, but he still introduced Anderson and issued congratulations via a short video.
The Farm City breakfast is part of the Farm City Week, which agribusiness committee member Kyle Shedd said was “national incentive to celebrate the relationship between farmers and the community.”
Georgia state Rep. Jon Burns was guest speaker for the event, and spoke about being a farmer and small business owner himself, and the blessings that brings.
“Farm-City Week has been a part of our lives for many years,” he said.
He spoke of politics in Washington as they pertain to the agriculture industry; “We expect good things to come out of Washington this year. We have passed policy that is good for Georgia.”
He praised Bulloch County for “working well with the retail sector” and maintaining its “small town values” while entertaining “big city entrepreneurism.”
Bulloch County ranks 18th out of 159 counties as far as agricultural production, with a Farm Gate value of $137 million, he said.
However, the weather took its toll on crops in 2016 “Bulloch County was blessed with good land, good water and people who know how it interacts,” he said.
Ag Partner of the Year
Via video, Black “presented” Anderson with the 2016 Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce Ag Partner of the Year award.
The award was not presented in 2015; instead, Mike Waters and his family were named “Farm Family of the Year.” The Ag Partner award has been presented since 2009 (Wes Harris), 2010 (Debra Chester),2011 (Wendell Brannen), 2012 ( Wade Hodges), 2013 (Roxanne Kibler), and 2014 ( Allen Muldrew.)
Anderson has “rendered outstanding service … and integrity” over the years, Black said. “He is of a family of deep commitment. He is a dear friend and mentor to me.
Anderson, from whom the award was kept secret, stepped from a packed breakfast crowd to accept the award.
“I’m honored,” he said. “All I’ve ever done was what I thought was good for the county. I’ve prayed for it. I’ve served a long time, and now I feel I’m an old man. I’ve served 25 years in public office and I wouldn’t take anything for it.”
The Bulloch County native served almost two terms as Bulloch County Commission chairman in the early ‘90s, finishing out Lamar DeLoach’s term when he resigned. He didn’t seek reelection after the second term, and was appointed by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue to the Department of Natural Resources Board, and later, the Department of Transportation Board.
Gov. Nathan Deal later appointed him to the Agriculture Authority in Perry, where he served five years.
In 1963, Anderson founded Bulloch Fertilizer, and two years later, “the company built the first liquid suspension fertilizer plant of its kind in Southeast Georgia and coined the SUR-GRO brand name. A retail store was added, offering chemicals, seed, feed and farm supplies, according to the company website (www.bullochfertilizer.com.)
In the early 1990s Anderson entered the turf grass market, blending and spreading fertilizer for area golf courses, sod farms and recreational facilities. In 1994 “a state-of-the-art fertilizer blending facility” was added.
The Bulloch Fertilizer retail store section was closed in 2005, but a bigger, more diverse store was added – Anderson’s General Store is operated through a partnership by Anderson’s son Mike Anderson and his wife Vicki Marsh Anderson.
In addition to these enterprises and duties, Raybon Anderson has farmed since the 1970’s, raising peanuts, cotton and soybeans, which he does to this day. The family farm stopped raising cattle a few years ago, he said.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.