By Marlee Moore
In just over a year, Coastal Growers LLC and its slate of partners and farmer-owners transformed a field into a state-of-the-art peanut shelling facility adding value to farmers’ crops.
Coastal Growers, owned by 195 farm families from Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi, held its grand opening in Atmore Feb. 23.
“Coastal Growers is growing,” said Dirk Lindsey, the company’s president and CEO, as he addressed a large crowd snacking on peanuts. “Thank you for entrusting us with your money. Thank you for allowing me and our employees to be part of this venture.”
The 60-acre spread includes warehouses, cold storage facilities and a 65,000-square-foot shelling plant. The plant can shell 25 tons of peanuts an hour and yields seven products — including three sizes of edible peanuts, wildlife peanuts, oil stock peanuts and ground peanut hulls, which are sold and transformed into pellets for fuel overseas. Coastal Growers ships products to 11 countries on three continents.
One of Coastal Growers’ biggest advocates is U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, who attended the ribbon-cutting.
“It’s a miracle what has happened here in such short time,” Tuberville said. “This is going to help so many people have an easier way of making a living. That’s what it’s all about. You couldn’t do this anywhere else in the world other than the United States of America.”
Tuberville serves on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, where he fights for Alabama farmers and the state’s $70 billion agriculture industry.
“This gives you an opportunity, hopefully, to make more money,” Tuberville said. “Peanuts are making a huge run in the South. I hope it continues to get better, that we continue to grow in this state.”
Growing is second nature to Coastal Growers. The shelling plant employs just over 60 people today; that number should top 100 by 2023. Railroad tracks are being laid to reach the plant, and future plans could include a seed cleaner. Coastal Growers operates out of nine buying points in Alabama and Georgia and recently bought a shelling plant in Tifton, Georgia, to better serve customers and mitigate drought risks.
“We’re a commodity product, and our quality is what gets people to come back,” said Director of Operations Anthony Daniels.
Baldwin County farmer Mark Kaiser was one of hundreds of farmers on hand for the plant tour Feb. 23. Kaiser is District 12 director of the Alabama Farmers Federation state board.
“I’m proud of everyone who worked on this,” said Kaiser, standing with his son, George. “This facility is owned by the farmers who will use it, and they’ll keep those profits themselves. That’s good for both the farmers and for the immediate area, because the money will just keep turning over locally.”