Written By: Leah Chester-Davis, Miles Hamrick, Roger Davidson
Randy Cook’s phone rings incessantly. He’s the go-to guy for poultry farmers across a large part of the Foothills and Piedmont regions. His business, Absolute Poultry Equipment, supplies all types of motors, switches, fans, feeders, waterers, and other machinery and equipment that poultry farmers need to keep their chicken houses operating efficiently.
While Randy, and wife Brenda, started Absolute Poultry in 2005, they started their farming business and their relationship with Carolina Farm Credit in the early 1970s as new graduates from Appalachian State University and new teachers returning to Cleveland County where they both grew up.
“We started with Carolina Farm Credit before it was Carolina Farm Credit,” Randy says. “Back then it was Ideal Production Credit before they changed the name. We bought a farm and we went through Carolina Farm Credit to get the loan.”
While working full-time, Brenda as a history teacher and Randy as an earth science and industrial arts or vocation teacher, they started raising cattle. Added to the mix was starting a family (they have two children), building a house, building poultry houses, and keeping everything going. Then in 2004, at an age when many people look toward retirement, they started Absolute Poultry. They have since sold their poultry houses to their daughter and son-in-law.
“I bought my land, all my cars and trucks, all my hay and other equipment, my livestock, house, the building we have now for our business, and our warehouse through Carolina Farm Credit,” says Randy. “I tease them all the time that they need to build me a room when I retire so that I’ll have a place to live because I’ve kept them going since the early ‘70s!”
All teasing aside, Randy says it’s the relationships with folks in the Shelby office of Carolina Farm Credit that make a difference. That and the cash dividend program have helped him out through the years. He appreciates being able to pick up the phone and talk with a loan officer about his needs. He goes through a list of names: Miles Hamrick and Gary Hastings, current Carolina Farm Credit employees, and adds names of those he’s seen retire through the years. He appreciates that they know him and his business as well as having knowledge about agriculture.
Randy says that he often recommends Carolina Farm Credit to others. At times he’s met with hesitancy about the interest rates being higher. “But when you’ve got folks you enjoy working with and you get a percentage of your interest back in cash dividend or when you retire your stock, you can enjoy a little surprise once in a while,” he says as he recounts numerous examples of how Carolina Farm Credit has worked with him through the years.
“We shop around to get the best price and I see all these advertisements with banks about low interest rates and hoopla about cheap money. Never have I been able to go into any bank and get the amount they advertised. But there is so little hassle with Carolina Farm Credit. They know my record and I seem to have fewer problems. They tell me upfront what the interest rate is going to be. If you take the 1.25 percent that you get back with your dividend, the banks are not cheaper than Carolina Farm Credit and the banks have a lot more hoops to jump through.”
The cash dividend checks are popular in the Cook household. “My wife and I always have a little game we play,” says Randy. “We’ll get the check and before I show it to her I ask her if she wants this check or the next one. She always laughs and says she’ll take this one and I’ll say ‘good,’ because the next one is going to be bigger. It’s enjoyable to do that. You get a little surprise every once in a while and you can get a vacation out of it.”
This is part 2 of a three-part series on the cash dividend program. In part 1, loan officers Roger Davidson and Miles Hamrick explain the program. In part 3, new member Donna Streich, of Iredell County, shares her experiences with Carolina Farm Credit and the cash dividend program.