business

Small-Business Success Story: Greenway Farms of Georgia

A former sheriff and assistant D.A. go back to their roots, raising livestock on 132 acres.

Kiplinger's spoke with Kerry Dunaway, co-owner of Greenway Farms of Georgia, a Roberta, Ga.-based sustainable farm, about why he and his wife, Robin, decided to retire from their longtime careers and start their own business. Read on for an excerpt from our interview:

How did you get into farming? We grew up on family farms, and Robin and I lived together on 18 acres. Robin pickled and made jelly all her life, and she began making goats-milk products after she and I retired. She sold them at local farmers markets, where she noticed the demand for meat and eggs. So we decided to raise livestock. We had bought an additional 22 acres early in retirement, and we rented another 100 acres after getting advice from university cooperative extension agents and other farmers.

When did you retire? At the end of 2008. I was sheriff of Crawford County for 25 years, and Robin was an assistant district attorney in Macon for 28 years. I was tired of politics, and Robin was burned out. We enjoyed sitting around, drinking coffee and watching the news. But soon we were getting on each other's last nerve and needed more to do.

Where did your capital come from? We tapped our savings for the 22 acres. When we began raising livestock, we took a line of credit from AgSouth Farm Credit, a lending cooperative. Last year, we partnered with another couple and bought a 92-acre farm. We no longer rent land. Now our assets total $520,000, and our debt is less than $90,000.

What kind of livestock do you raise? We buy calves, piglets and meat chickens. We also have 235 laying hens. We pasture-raise our animals without growth hormones or antibiotics added to their feed. When it's time, we drive them to a family-owned processor that is USDA-certified and humane. We've found that meat from an animal raised and processed humanely is more tender than meat from a stressed animal.

What do you can? In 2013, we built the cannery to make jams, jellies, pickles and sauces with local produce. Robin runs it. Her law skills were a big help in getting our kitchen federally inspected and USDA-certified.

Where do you sell? We started at farmers markets. As we became known for our quality, we attracted some local stores and restaurants, too. We also sell via our website (www.greenwayfarmsofga.com).

What do you charge? Our chicken goes for $3.35 a pound, ground beef for $7, center-cut pork chops for $8, filet mignon for $20 and a dozen large eggs for $5. Some people say, "I can buy this hamburger or steak at Wal-Mart." I say, "You can't buy this kind of hamburger or steak at Wal-Mart."

How big are you now? In 2017, we sold about 17,000 pounds of beef, pork and chicken and about 2,500 dozen eggs, as well as 4,600 jars of our canned goods. In 2018, we expect to more than triple our meat production.

Do you make a living? We supplement our retirement income with farm income. We also benefit from agricultural tax breaks that flow back to us personally as a limited liability corporation. The work is demanding, with nonstop going and doing, but it's fun, and every day is a little different. Still, I used to wonder why my grandparents went to bed at 8 p.m., and now I know why.

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