Steve Welch Family Recognized as Farm Bureau’s 2024 Outstanding Farm Family of the Year in Jackson County

The Steve Welch Family was recognized as 2024 Outstanding Farm Family by Jackson County Farm Bureau, at their annual banquet on April 9, 2024.


On Tuesday, April 9th, Jackson County Farm Bureau held their annual banquet at Rivertown Community Church.  Over 300 members came out to celebrate the success of the organization over the past year.  The highlight of the event was the recognition of the Outstanding Farm Family.  This year Steve Welch’s family received this distinguished honor.  Steve and his wife Gwen Welch have been married for 38 years and have three adult children and 5 grandchildren.  Their son Steven is married to Kelsey, and they have two sons Jackson and Everett.  Their son Brandon married Ashley, and they have a daughter Lauren, and a son Wesley.  Their daughter Kayla married Kevin Warren and they have a son Brantley.

Farming and the agriculture industry have played a huge role in the Welch Family.  Steve’s father, George Welch, and his uncles worked for the Pender Family on their farm and at their Pender Peanut Mill that was a buying point, warehouse, and peanut sheller providing the first level of processing for peanuts.  Steve is a graduate of the Greenwood K-12 school. Steve followed in the footsteps of his father and uncles working first on the Pender farm and then at Pender Peanut Company.

Overall, Steve has worked for the past 51 years in some form in the peanut industry.  He started out working for the Pender family and also managing his own row crop farming operation part-time.  He worked in a variety of roles even driving a tractor trailer for a time, but what he is most known for is managing the peanut mill in downtown Greenwood, Florida.  He shared that he had two key mentors that trained him, Robert Pender and Ed Ham, who gave him the opportunity and the support to be successful.   In its hay day, the Pender Peanut Company handled 21,000 tons of peanuts annually with more than 100 employees.  The Peanut Mill was purchased by Dothan Oil Mill Company in 1982.  With the purchase, Steve stepped away from the mill management for a year to drive a truck again, but with time his valuable experience was called on again to manage the mill in 1983.  In 1992, Archer Daniels Midland or ADM bought the mill to be a Golden Peanut Company buying point.  ADM is one of the largest agricultural cooperations in the world.  Steve has served Golden Peanut’s as the Greenwood Buying Point manager for the past 32 years.  Today, the buying point handles 10,000 tons annually for family farms in the area.  Steve turns 69 later this year but has no plans for retirement.  Steve says, “When you recognize that every day is a blessing, then it’s not just a job but what you enjoy doing, so there is no rush to retire.

They key to success as the Peanut Buying Point Manager is recognizing and embracing this role as the middleman, who must balance the need for a quality product to sell, as well as a place where farmers felt they were treated fairly.  To be successful long-term, Steve had to ensure that both the company and the farmers were treated right.  In the prime of the Pender Peanut Company, their Greenwood Mill was one of the few peanut marketing options available to farmers in Jackson, Calhoun, Washington, and Holmes Counites.  Every year in October there were lines of trucks with peanut wagons waiting to sell their harvest.  As the years went by other buying points and mills were opened to reduce the driving time required at harvest, but the Greenwood Buying Point has remained a market for farmers in both Jackson and Calhoun Counites.  Steve has built life-long relationships with many of our local farmers, such as:  Larry and Bud Baggett, Phillip Melvin, Lynn and Larry McKeithan, Howard Hodge senior and junior, Gary Ward, Calvin Williams, Dexter Gilbert, and John Hill, just to name a few.  Without the trust and respect from local farmers, the buying point would not have been successful.  Likewise, the customers purchasing dried whole peanuts from the warehouse must have a consistent quality product to further process.  For farmers the peanut buying point is the market that ends their yearlong efforts, but for companies that utilize peanuts for peanut butter, candies and baked goods, oil, and numerous other peanut products, the buying point is the first stage of processing.

In addition to his vital work at the Greenwood Peanut Mill, under three different owners, Steve has also been a part-time farmer for most of his adult life.  He started with growing peanuts and cotton in rotation but recognized this as a conflict of interest with his customers and the company he served.  Steve made the switch to raising beef cattle and hay.  Steve and his son Brandon, manage a 70-head commercial cattle and hay operation.  Both have full-time jobs, Steve with the peanut mill and Brandon working for Alabama Power, so they raise cattle and hay in their spare time.  Not only do they raise and harvest hay to feed their herd, but also harvest peanut vine hay from area peanut farmers following harvest.  As in most farm families, everyone in the Welch family has helped make the operation successful at one time or another.

In recent years, the father son duo developed a new venture selling fed beef.  Currently they raise 10-12 steers beyond weaning to maturity and have them processed at Jones Country Meats in Climax, Georgia.  This direct-to-consumer marketing of fed cattle is frequently called freezer beef.  The demand for locally produced freezer beef has really taken off since the COVID19 outbreak.  Steve says they have enough demand that they could potentially feed and sell 40-50 head annually, if there were more capacity at the small meat processors in the area.

I have explained how busy Steve, and his family are during the daylight hours, but that is not the extent of what he and his family does in their local community.  Steve is also the pastor of Hickory Grove Free Will Baptist Church, in Bascom.  Every Sunday morning he preaches, and on Wednesday nights he leads a Bible study.  The other nights of the week he spends taking care of his church family.  Plus, he also tries to attend many of the activities his grandkids are involved in too.  As you can imagine, this family stays very busy and are very actively engaged in our local community.

Clearly the Steve Welch family are highly valued members of this agricultural community.  Please join with me in congratulating Steve, Gwen, Steven, Brandon, and Kayla Welch Warren, Jackson County Farm Bureau’s 2024 Outstanding Farm Family.

In addition to the farm family recognition, Jackson County Farm Bureau made a contribution to each FFA chapter in the county, at their annual banquet.  Presidents from each chapter were on hand to receive the donation.

Presidents from the 7 FFA Chapters in Jackson County were were recognized and provided a donation by the Jackson County Farm Bureau a their annual banquet on April 9, 2024.

Posted: March 15, 2024

Category: Agriculture

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