Opening global doors to small business and family farms
The Georgia Ports Authority supports the activities of small businesses across the region, including retail, trucking companies, various services and even family farms.
Photo: Cotton has been an important export commodity for Savannah for centuries, and the Bell family has helped supply that market for six generations.
“It’s just an honor for us to be able to farm,” said Gary Bell. Owner of Bell Farms. “I think it’s a noble profession to be able to grow food and fiber to feed the whole world.”
Based in Bellville, Ga., Bell Farms’ offerings range from cotton and pecans, to forest products and beef cattle.
“We export about 60 percent of our cotton and around 40 percent of our pecans,” said Bell. “We use the Port to reach international markets.”
Their Georgia-grown cotton goes to China, Vietnam, Turkey and India, while the pecans go mostly to China and India.
“The port is located only 50 miles from here, so that’s real advantageous for us,” he said one sunny morning from the edge of a cotton field. “Having the Port of Savannah so close to our operation adds value to our crop. The Southeast is looked at as a major supplier, and we can ship our products out — whether it’s forestry, cotton, poultry — in a moment’s notice.”
Bell added that Georgia’s landside infrastructure also helps to get farm products to market.
“We have good infrastructure with our roads and railroads, and it all ties together,” he said. “It’s a very efficient operation. And the Port of Savannah pulls cotton out of all the Southeast states — South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama — so its efficiency provides a cost savings to the cotton industry.”
Bell said he sees the success of his farm tied to the success of the Port of Savannah.
“The Port is very important to us. Our farm is a centennial farm, and the port keeps our farm going,” he said. “It’s very beneficial to our operation and keeps us profitable out here. We’re very blessed here on Bell Farms. We have the sixth generation now coming up on the farm. That’s very important for us to keep the tradition going. The Savannah port has kept us on the farm.”
That long-time relationship is one reason Bell supports the Savannah Harbor deepening.