Scott County FB went to bat for farm implement dealer

Posted on Jul 3, 2014
Toyota and urban sprawl have changed Scott County to where agriculture no longer is the dominant force. But farmers there still have clout, and the farm community is united and optimistic about agriculture’s future.

Just ask Bill or Jimmy Bevins.

They can tell you about the tremendous growth of the 68-year-old Bevins Motors farm equipment business in Georgetown, and how it now will be relocating to a sparking 47,000-square-foot facility after farmers – including many from Scott County Farm Bureau – stood with them through a zoning battle last fall.

Jimmy Bevins and Scott County FB President Jimmy Richardson at the current site.
Jimmy Bevins and Scott County FB President Jimmy Richardson at the current site.

Scott County Farm Bureau President Jimmy Richardson says the zoning dispute revealed the fabric of the county’s farm community, as well as its fondness and appreciation for what 95-year-old Bill Bevins has meant to them.

“It really was about the Bevins family; more so than just having the (John Deere) dealership itself,” Richardson said.

Bevins Motors is one of the oldest continuous businesses in the county and remains the only farm implement dealer that offers full service on all brands. That is very important to local farmers, but there’s much more involving the Bevins’ family’s contribution to agriculture, Richardson said.

“They support Farm Bureau, FFA and just about any project that helps agriculture and youth,” he said. “Mr. Bevins also has contributed heavily to Georgetown College, UK, the Markey Cancer Center and other things. He truly believes in giving back to the community.”

Bill Bevins turned the business over to son Jim many years ago after building it up through tireless work and an unusual twist of fate. He is a native of Pike County (Johns Creek) and earned BA and MA Degrees in Agriculture from UK before becoming an FFA teacher/advisor in the tiny Boyle County community of Parksville.

After a couple years of teaching, Bill decided to move closer to Lexington and start a business. He says he chose Georgetown because “it was a nice little country town with plenty of farmers around.”

In 1946 he had a building constructed on Water Street, just a stone’s throw from the current Scott County Farm Bureau office, and opened Bevins & Friend Motors. His primary goal, he recalled, “was that anyone farming with a team of horses needed a tractor, and I was going to sell them one.”

He continued: “For about $2,500, we could sell them a fully equipped tractor; they didn’t have to feed them like the horses. It took us about 10-12 years to eliminate all those horses.”

The new Bevins Motors facility off U.S. 25 south of Georgetown will encompass 47,000 square feet.
The new Bevins Motors facility off U.S. 25 south of Georgetown will encompass 47,000 square feet.

In those early days Bill also sold refrigerators, freezers, Rambler automobiles and International Harvester trucks.

Bill says he sold “a ton” of Farmall Super As, 100s, 130s and 140s. “You could have lined them up from here to Lexington,” he quipped.

He wanted to carry International Harvester tractors, and was given a proposition.

“They told me if I could sell enough refrigerators, they’d let me sell their tractors,” Bill recalled. “I set a goal to sell three a day. I went all over the county. I sold a refrigerator to a woman who didn’t have electricity. Electricity was just catching on in the rural areas, so the timing was perfect. People were looking to buy refrigerators.

“I sold many a refrigerator on a note between me and the farmer. A lot of payments were made when tobacco was sold. Many many times I was told ‘I’ll pay you when I sell my tobacco.’

“That’s the way it went back then. A scrap of paper with signatures was good. I didn’t lose any payments.”

Bill landed the International Harvester brand, which he continued until the company was sold in the mid-1980s. At that point he switched to John Deere, which became the most popular brand in the area.

In 1960 Bevins Motors moved to the current location on US 25, just south of downtown Georgetown. The new location is another 1.4 miles to the south, on land the Bevins have owned for years.

Jimmy joined the company in 1980 fresh out of college. Dad made him learn the business from the ground up.

“I started under a grease rack,” Jimmy said, laughing. “He put me in the trenches.”

“When Jimmy told me he wanted the business I bought him a set of tools and told him to learn this from the bottom up; starting with service,” added Bill.

Jimmy says his top items today are small tractors and haying equipment, and the most valuable feature is the service department.

“The big reason our company has been so solid is our field service, plus we can service all brands,” he explained.

A direct connection with Farm Bureau came in the late 1970s when Bevins Motors became a dealer for Safemark tires and batteries, which was one of KFB’s member services.

Along the way stores were added  in Paris, Mount Sterling and Richmond. The Bevins Motors  stores now serve farmers in 26 counties, according to Jim.

The groundbreaking for the new site was held in April, attracting a good crowd that included Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Sixth District Congressman Andy Barr. The new store is scheduled to open in November.

“It has been quite an evolution,” Jimmy says of the company history. “When dad started he was selling Farmalls for $1,200; now a small tractor will go for $80,000 to $100,000. And today’s equipment has incredible capabilities that we couldn’t have imagined.”

Scott County has about half the number of farmers (838, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture) from when Bill Bevins came in 1946. But they made plenty of noise last fall when the Scott County Planning and Zoning Commission was considering the rezoning application for Bevins Motors.

“The courthouse was packed with farmers” for the final hearing, said Jimmy Richardson, who spoke at the hearing and also was among those who wrote supporting letters to the editor of the local newspaper.

Scott County is the state’s fastest growing county. With a boost from its farmers, its leading farm implement dealer will be growing too.

Tagged Post Topics Include: Andy Barr, Bevins Motors, Bill Bevins, Boyle County, Commissioner of Agriculture, FFA, Georgetown, Georgetown College, James Comer, Jimmy Bevins, Jimmy Richardson, John Deere, Lexington, Markey Cancer Center, Parksville, Pike County, Safemark, Scott County Farm Bureau, Toyota, UK, US Representative