Here at Southern Valley, when we use the term “family farm” we mean it in the most literal sense possible. For instance, what we aren’t saying is that we are a farm that operates like a family – although as a family farm that is, of course, inevitable. What we aren’t saying is that we are a group of small family farms combined to make one large farming operation. What we aren’t saying is that we were started by a family one day many, many years ago and are now corporately run. There are no hooks and gimmicks here. When we say “family farm” we mean it. Literally.
The family farm tree goes a little something like this: Kent and Kirk (brothers) got together in 1987 with the desire to begin growing produce. They asked their dad, Benny, to partner with them along with a friend, David Rogers. Within that very same year, Kirk was killed in a tragic farming accident. His then wife, Patricia, as well as her daughter, Skylar, still work at Southern Valley today: Patricia works in the accounting office while Skylar helps oversee harvesting in the fields.
In 1991, Benny passed away from cancer, leaving his share to his wife, Wanda. By this point, Wanda’s sister, Valda, had already started working on the farm in a full-time accounting role. As the years passed, two of Valda’s children, Jon and Dug – at the time teenagers – began working on the farm. Twenty years later, they both still do. Jon is now Director of Operations for Southern Valley and Dug is Director of Sales. Meanwhile, Valda’s husband, Steve, came on board to help with purchasing and expansion. Just recently, Jon and Dug’s step-sister, Amber, was hired to join Valda in accounting and Valda’s granddaughter, Katie, was hired to work in the HR department.
That just about sums up Valda’s family but leaves us with Wanda and Kent’s families to mention. Kent’s oldest, Courtney, now works in Administration in the office handling everything from company insurance to payroll to assisting with HR. His oldest son, Austin, works alongside him in the field overseeing the success of the crops. Austin’s wife, Ashley, is new to the force handling freight in the accounts receivable office while Wanda’s husband, Ed, works on the farm too, helping with various projects.
Being an outsider to the group, it took a while for me to learn all the family connections within the office. Now, I thoroughly enjoy piecing together the genetic lines for newcomers at the office. Truth is, Norman Park, Georgia is a small place with a few central families establishing the blood lines many years ago. The Robert’s bloodline (Valda and Wanda’s maiden name) just happened to come from two of those central bloodlines. This also conveniently means they are related to half of Norman Park.
As Southern Valley grew, the leadership knew they wanted family by their side to help make the farm possible. When you’re related to half the community, that isn’t too hard of a deal to swing. And for those of us in the company who aren’t family by blood, we were quickly adopted in as part of the Southern Valley family as well. Now if this kind of lineage doesn’t qualify as a family farm… then I’m just not sure what does.
**In the late 90’s, the friend, David Rogers, sold his share of the company back leaving Kent and Wanda as the sole owners. Wanda, along with her granddaughter Courtney, now owns the majority percentage making Southern Valley a female-owned company.