APPLING CO., Ga. (WTOC) - Agriculture is one of the biggest industries in Georgia, but that doesn’t mean it can escape the effects of COVID-19.
President & CEO of Southeastern Gin & Peanut Kent Fountain talked to WTOC about how the virus is affecting his business.
Cotton has always been an integral part of Georgia's agricultural industry.
Eli Whitney patterned the cotton gin in 1794 at the Mulberry Grove Plantation outside of Savannah.
Over 200 years later, Fountain is ginning cotton in Surrency, Georgia with some of the latest technology.
“We are ag and ag is the number one industry in the state of Georgia. Both of the products we deal with, we are processing. These products can’t be merchandise, they can’t get sold, they can’t get to the consumer until they come through a process like ours,” said Fountain.
Fountain has been in the agriculture industry since 1995, helping promote the cotton ginning infrastructure in Southeast Georgia after flooding in 1994.
Fountain has eight warehouses used to store thousands of pounds of peanuts and up to 75,000 bales of cotton a year. But some of that cotton might be in storage for longer than normal because of the coronavirus.
“What has really impacted us, as it has all of ag is our markets. We have lost about 30-percent of our market in cotton and it has really hurt us. As you can imagine, when you shut your malls down, you shut your retail down, the demand went to nothing,” said Fountain.
Fountain’s operation is still moving forward, with some of their cotton seed heading halfway around the world.
“We are loading cotton seed right now in containers. We blow it in containers and it goes to the port in Savannah. All this is going to Saudi Arabia, for dairy cows in Saudi Arabia,” Fountain said.
In order to continue this process for years to come, younger farmers will have to take an interest in the industry.
That’s exactly what Fountain’s two sons have done while attending the University of Georgia for food science and agribusiness.
“Ag in the state of Georgia still is the number one industry in the state of Georgia with a very few amount of people that are in it. We need young people, we need them. It is just a challenging industry and you know we all want our best for our children. I would be tickled for them to come back, but I also realize how challenging it is,” said Fountain.
Even though the agricultural industry is facing challenges from COVID-19, Fountain still loves his job and he hopes that people know they’re going to continue to work hard to provide for their communities.
“I encourage our people to understand that farming and producers need to stay in business and have to stay in business for us to be viable. That makes me proud to do that. I am proud that I am associated with ag, because I think it’s the best industry in the world,” boasted Fountain.