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Redding’s end of the road

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Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 12:00 am

Georgia Farm Bureau, the non-profit farmer’s advocate group, started in Walton County in 1937. Its insurance arm started in 1959, offering coverage for farmers and people who lived in such rural areas that regular insurance companies wouldn’t cover them.

This year will be the 59th year of the insurance company’s existence. It will also be the 48th and final year John Redding has worked for them.

Redding got into the business by helping a farmer friend get liability coverage. At the time, in 1970, Redding was an agriculture teacher at Monroe Area High School, having moved here after graduating from the University of Georgia. His wife, Levon, was working at the Farm Bureau and heard that a man who had just bought a farm in Good Hope was struggling to get insurance.

Redding happened to know the man, and he took the Farm Bureau agents to meet him. They wrote the farmer a plan, and on the drive home, the agents told Redding that if he got an insurance license he could work for them too.

Redding needed more money to support his family; his daughter Cynthia had been born three years earlier. So in his spare time, Redding studied up on insurance know-how and eventually aced the licensing test.

He joined Farm Bureau on Oct 1, 1970. He’s been there ever since.

At first, Redding worked part time, keeping his teaching job. He’d teach kids about cattle raising and soil science all day and then run over to the Farm Bureau office once school let out and sell insurance in the evening.

But he soon realized that there were more opportunities for advancement in the insurance world than the education world. Still, Redding loved teaching, and it wasn’t an easy choice.

“It broke my heart to leave teaching,” Redding said, “But I had to make the right choice for myself and my family.”

He started working full-time at Farm Bureau in 1973 was promoted to agency manager in 1978.

“I was the only agent working in the insurance business at the time” Redding said of the promotion, “ And the Farm Bureau president called and offered me the position. He said if I didn’t take it he’d find someone else who would. So I took it.”

The agency has since grown to house three agents under Redding.

He reckons he’s stayed so long because he gets to work with good people every day. Many of his co-workers have stuck around for long periods of time, none more than Levon, who will hit 52 years at Farm Bureau this year.

He hopes people will remember him as honest. Redding recognizes the uneven power dynamic in insurance; those selling insurance know much more than those buying it. He hopes no one ever felt that he took advantage of this by selling more coverage than they needed.

If he did, it’s hard to imagine he’d have lasted 48 years.

Redding has done more than sell insurance in the area.

He’s been heavily involved with the Soil and Water Conservation District, the local chapter of national government program aimed at educating and helping farmers reduce erosion and soil maltreatment.

Although he couldn’t keep teaching people about agriculture in the traditional sense, Redding said his involvement with the group has allowed him to express that passion in another way.

He was chair of the Walton County group for 32 years before he became treasurer of the national organization in 2004.

Then, in 2007, he rose to be president for two years.

“That was one of the things I’m most proud of in my life,” Redding said.

After retirement, Redding said he plans to spend more time on his farm in Bluffton, Georgia, where he grew up.

He already owns close to five-hundred acres, where he grows corn, peanuts and cotton. he hopes to add another hundred soon by buying a nearby plot that his grandfather once owned.

After forty-eight years of selling insurance, Redding is excited to get back to his roots.

 “I want to drive my tractor more,” he said.

Walton County Farm Bureau will hold a reception for Redding’s retirement at their offices on Highway 78 on April 30 from 2-5.

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