What is in this article?:
- Monty Rast: Sunbelt Farmer of the Year for South Carolina
- Grain marketing
- Cash award
• As a result of his accomplishments as a crop farmer and agribusiness investor, Rast has been selected as the South Carolina state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.
He uses the Pinnacle marketing program of Palmetto Grain Brokerage to sell his grain crops. He sells his cotton through direct sales to Parkdale Mills. He contracts peanuts each year and markets them through Carolina Peanut. Rast started growing peanuts on a large scale in 2003 after the quota poundage system was eliminated. “We needed a rotation crop for cotton,” Rast says.
After graduating from The Citadel, he worked two years as a tax appraiser for the South Carolina Tax Commission. After that, he worked four years on his father’s farm. While doing so, he decided to farm for himself. “At that time, the Payment-in-Kind (PIK) program was available, so I rented a large farm in Orangeburg County and entered it into the PIK program,” he recalls. “This move netted me enough money to expand my operation during the next few years.”
As he started his own farm, he also worked six years as a field supervisor with the Boll Weevil Eradication Program. After boll weevil eradication succeeded, he took another job managing Interlaken Plantation.
At Interlaken, he added a hunting and wildlife management program to the farming operation. By 2002, he needed to devote more time to his own farm, so he left Interlaken. And at that time, he started building Carolina Peanut with several partners.
Carolina Peanut, based in Cameron, is one of his most successful business investments. This firm is a buying point for Birdsong Peanuts and John B. Sanfilippo & Son peanut processors. Carolina Peanut is building a new warehouse that will be leased to Birdsong. He also helped to start Pee Dee Peanut, a new buying point in Mullins, S.C.
He invested in Top Dollar Cotton Co. This firm links gins with textile mills to help market cotton and is based in Orangeburg, S.C. “Top Dollar is aimed at passing savings along to farmers and it evolved from our marketing partnership with Parkdale Mills,” says Rast.
Cameron Agriculture Service is his newest business. It specializes in marketing and shipping cottonseed by rail. He located this business at an old fertilizer plant with railroad access.
“We don’t have strong markets for cottonseed here in South Carolina,” he says. “This facility will expose our cottonseed to buyers in the West and North, and if we can get better prices, we will benefit both local farmers and local gins.” He anticipates that seven South Carolina gins will furnish cottonseed this year for handling by Cameron Agriculture Service.
“I really enjoy the process of launching these businesses,” says Rast.
Rast earned the rank of Eagle Scout, served as class president at The Citadel and is a private airplane pilot. He chaired the Young Farmer and Rancher Committee for South Carolina Farm Bureau. He served on the Calhoun County Clemson Extension Advisory Committee. For the past eight years, he has been a member of the South Carolina Peanut Board.
He represents South Carolina on the National Peanut Board that administers farmer-funded research, promotion and education programs. He is also on the board of the National Peanut Buying Points Association.
He was a member of the National Cotton Council Leadership Development Committee. He has also represented farmers from the Southeast as winner of High Cotton award sponsored by Farm Press Publications.
He is active in Resurrection Lutheran Church where he has been a church trustee.
His wife Kathy has an off-farm career in merchandising high-end Carlisle brand fashions. She has been very active in supporting Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, S.C.
When she lived in Augusta, Ga., she served as president of the Junior League of Augusta and the Green Court Garden Club. She was active as special events coordinator for the St. Joseph Foundation. She chaired a gala to benefit the Morris Museum of Art. She also served on the boards for the Children’s Hospital, the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art and the Augusta Child Advocacy Center.
The Rasts have four children, daughters Erin, Ansley and Eliza, and a son, Walker.
Brian Callahan with the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is the state coordinator for the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.
Charles Davis, Jr., Clemson Extension agent in St. Matthews, S.C., nominated Rast for the award. Davis says, “Monty is a farmer who thinks outside the box. He’s an entrepreneur who is always looking at new ventures. He has been a strong supporter of Clemson University and has been willing to take on leadership roles in the peanut industry. He is, without doubt, a sharp businessman.”