On any given day that you might travel out to Register in west Bulloch County, Will and Reid Anderson are hard at work on their combined farming operations. Whether they are tending their own row crops, keeping up with the chickens, or helping a neighboring farmer, they’re a busy pair with plenty to do.
Will and Reid Anderson are fifth generation Bulloch County farmers. Just a small portion of the land they tend today is ‘family’ land, but their agriculture roots run deep. Their great-grandaddy, Reidy Anderson, farmed in Bulloch as did their grandad Thomas Anderson, who also sold tractors part-time. It was not until their dad, Tommy Anderson, came along that there was an opportunity for someone in the family to farm full-time. And he did.
Will and Reid grew up on the family farm tending soybeans, cotton, peanuts, and corn alongside a thriving hog operation. They also grew up handpicking tobacco and learning the in’s and out’s of what it takes to be a farmer. Both played sports, but evenings and summers were for farming and they were okay with that.
Neither felt forced to pick agriculture. Both Will and Reid say they were drawn to farming because of the good example their own daddy set. Will says, “Daddy is, for sure, the reason we wanted to farm. It was hard work, but daddy made it fun.” Will and Reid both say the work ethic is the most important lesson they were taught by their dad, but it was not something he preached, but instead showed them every day.
In 1999, at the ripe age of nineteen, Will starting growing onions and keeping hogs before partnering with Claxton Poultry to build two chicken houses. It was a new venture for anyone in the the Anderson family, but it went well and a year later, they built two more.
Will ditched the hog business after a few years because it was simply too much work with everything else they had rolling.
Reid, the younger of the two, left Bulloch County for a few years to attend trade college in Tennessee. He drove a truck for a few years and farmed part-time but in 2008, he returned to go all-in for farming. At that point, Mr. Tommy Anderson was unable to farm on his own because of health issues and Will and Reid were running the show.
These days, the Anderson brothers are lucky to have both their dad and grandad still around to offer advice. They tend a combined 2,000 acres of cotton, 800 acres of peanuts, and 300 acres of soybeans with the occasional corn across two separate farming operations. Will operates under Will Anderson Farms, Inc. and Reid has New Castle Farms. They also have New Castle Trucking which hauls various agriculture products like fertilizer, chemicals, peanuts, and the like.
But it’s the chicken houses -Quad A Farms- that are the prime investment with the consistent, reliable income.
The bird flu, though it has settled, is still a huge concern for chicken farmers and is something Will and Reid worry about day in and day out. The basic precautionary measures and the disinfecting protocols at the houses don’t calm the fears of what an outbreak could do. If something happened, protocol would shut down and quarantine chicken operations in a six-mile air radius, and near Register, that would affect over fifty chicken houses, each with about 20,000 chickens in them at any given time. Anything in the two mile radius would be slaughtered. The pressure of protecting the flocks spans far beyond a single farmer and his houses, especially in a community of farmers that works together.
Will and Reid are still considered a younger generation of farmers, but farming has changed considerably even since they started on their own. It certainly is not as labor intensive as it used to be and Will says he tries every so often to teach his kids ‘the old way’ of doing things. The technology with auto-steer and GPS isn’t cheap and it is tough to keep up without it. In some ways technology makes farming easier, but in turn, there are longer work hours are needed. The more equipment there is, the more land that needs to be tended to keep up and so on. Even still, they employ eight people to tend the operation.
We discussed at length the equilibrium points of when it is time to hire help and what amount of acreage pushes a farmer to the point of full-time farming versus part-time farming. Reid is building two chicken houses of his own now and says the chickens plus 1,000 acres is about as much as they could do on their own with no extra help because of technology. 40 years ago the same work would take ten guys.
2011 was a tough year for the Andersons because of the drought, and farming in no year is farming an easy feat, but neither have ever considered quitting. The Anderson brothers say good farming takes a firm reliance on The Lord, a strong sense of financial savvy, and a drive to be innovative. They say it doesn’t hurt to understand mechanics, too. Most of the time, they can fix their own equipment which is cost-effective.
Some might think spending so many hours a day with your brother would be tough, but in between all the work talk, there’s a strong brotherly love under the veil of never ending humor and incessant jokes. It’s truly a family affair that Will would like to see passed on to at least one of his sons. He and his wife, Hannah, have two boys, Avery and Avant, and a daughter, Ava. So far, it’s their son Avant that has a strong interest in agriculture. Reid says he feels lucky because there isn’t a day he and his brother don’t talk. He and his wife, Melanie, have two daughters, Gracie and Georgia Kate, and Reid says if his daughters aren’t interested in farming or married to someone who is, his nephews will be first in line for anything he builds. The closeness is a good support system for the tough hours which seem to run year round.
Farming, to Will and Reid, is great because of the opportunity to start fresh every year. A clean slate, a fresh field, and a new attempt to make it better than the last. They both are willing to try new things each year, too. Luckily, they have plenty of years left to experiment.
Will and Reid Anderson were nominated by November’s Farmer of the Month, Wade McElveen. Will and Reid Anderson nominated Jason, Josh, and Lehman Brannen for All On Georgia – Bulloch’s January ‘Farm of the Month.’