Nevil. It’s a popular name in Bulloch County for many reasons all of which are good. But in the agriculture community, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know Ricky Nevil out in Register.
Ricky grew up farming with his uncle, Tony Nevil, who he considers a benchmark for farming in Bulloch County. After finishing at ABAC, Ricky and his daddy, Mack, started farming in with a few relatively small tracts of lands. That was 1986. He joined a few friends in the venture, but unfortunately, 1986 was such a tough year for farming that Ricky went to Georgia Southern and only farmed on the side. 300 acres of corn, soybeans, and peanuts kept him plenty busy.
He received a degree in finance from Georgia Southern, which has worked to his advantage with regard to the bookkeeping side of things he works on today. Luckily, he enjoys the bookkeeping involved with farming as much as he does working outside in the field. Ricky believes you have to be good businessman, love what you do, and do a lot of praying to succeed in farming.
After college, Ricky took a job with a textile company in Lagrange, but spent his vacation time and most of his weekends back on the farm planting seeds and tending the land. He just couldn’t stay away despite the 4-hour drive. After 4 years, he moved back to Bulloch County for good and went to work in the family business.
Ricky farmed part-time and tended roughly 150 acres through 1996 when left his family’s tire business and married his wife Susan. His family, who was a pillar of the Bulloch County Community through their tire business, was supportive of his leap of faith into farming and told him if he didn’t try it full-time, he would probably regret it. So in 1996, Ricky finished out the year tending nearly 500 acres.
The rest is history. Sort of.
Nowadays, Ricky partners with three other farmers to operate Candler Peanut, which has expanded to two locations, while tending 3,200 acres of cotton and peanuts of his own. His wife Susan, an accountant, owns and operates Dutch Ford Farms wedding and event venue just over the Candler County line. They have three children Lehman (16), Grace Ann (12), and Riley (10), but it’s Lehman who has inherited the true passion for farming. Lehman works on the farm alongside his dad in any of his free time. When I asked Ricky if he felt lucky that his son has already chosen agriculture, his response was a quick, “Oh yeah.” He went on, “It makes the transition to everything more comforting.” His daughters, he says, are welcome to farm as they grow older, too, and he would love to see them both carry on the family passion for farming.
Ricky also counts his workers, Jamey, Lalo, Carlos, and Orlando, as one of his many blessings – also quick to mention how he could not do what he does without them.
We talked at length about the the shrinking number of young farmers entering the industry, something Ricky hopes is simply part of a revolving cycle. He said the same thing happened in 1980 when prices, products, and the economy were struggling so much that people were encouraged not to farm. Ricky jokes that it’s probably good thing his daddy wasn’t a full-time farmer while he was growing up because Ricky and his sister didn’t see the struggling side of farming as a young kid.
Nevil Farms, like any farmer, has seen some tough days, but Ricky sees it all as character building. I ask every farmer about their toughest year and why, but Ricky had a different answer. He says his toughest year was the best year.
In 1998, he received a better education farming than he ever could in school. Following two “high” years, Nevil Farms struggled immensely. A four-year drought span led farmers to mow their crops down instead of harvesting them, but he says he would be bankrupt if he didn’t go through those hard years. “We came off of two good years thinking we got this figured out. Those were enjoyable, but I don’t think you learn much. You learn more in the bad years.” And learning he did. His farming operation these days is ever-expanding.
His uncle Tony gave him some sound advice he carries with him still, “If you don’t love this job enough that you would do it for nothing, you’re in the wrong business.”
“Do you ever regret leaving the tire business?” I asked. “Never. Not once. This is where I always wanted to be. I just love to watch a crop grow.” He says most farmers aren’t in it for the money. They enjoy the lifestyle and it takes money to support the lifestyle of agriculture.
And by the stories he tells, it’s true: Ricky loves farming and the land. He mentioned that before the big PowerBall drawing last month, he and a few farming friends were discussing what they would do with the winnings. “Do you know that we are probably some of the blessed people in the nation?” he said. “Talking about winning hundreds of millions of dollars and everyone of us would keep doing what we’re doing. We want to do it better and with more equipment, but nobody wants to quit.”
Ricky Nevil was nominated by Jason Brannen of Register, a lifelong friend and friend in agriculture who was the January ‘Farm of the Month’ for Bulloch County. Ricky has nominated Greg Sikes as the March ‘Farm of the Month.’
To read previous Farm of the Month articles, click here. (Also see Tattnall, Candler, & Evans Farms of the Month)