Posted on Apr 6, 2018
Now in its 60th year of business, Ag-Pro Companies has created an impressive legacy much like the timeless tractor company that paved the way for Ag-Pro to become what it is today. This year, John Deere celebrates 100 years of tractor innovation while Ag-Pro reflects on its own distinguished history.
John Deere’s innovation in agriculture began with plows in the mid-1800s. But when Deere & Co. acquired the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company for $2.5 million in 1918, it solidified the company’s future in the tractor business.
“There are a lot of early parallels between John Deere and Ag-Pro,” said James Groover, Chief Executive Officer of Ag-Pro Companies. “We originally began as a popular local general store but soon changed our focus as we saw the needs shift in our customers, much like Deere did when they saw a real cry from the people for a reliable tractor.”In 1903, the Adams, Rountree, and Co. opened the general store in Boston, Georgia, carrying farm supplies, groceries and furniture. By 1958, the store became Boston Tractor Company, positioning John Deere as the featured product line.
“World War II played a big part in both John Deere and the establishment of what is now Ag-Pro,” said Groover. “Deere’s President was commissioned as an Army colonel, and the company shifted to support the war with military tractors, ammunition, aircraft parts and more, while Ag-Pro’s future leaders were on the front lines. When they returned home in 1945 after the war, that’s when things really got started for us.”
James Sr. and Samuel “Dick” Groover, two brothers, opened the Boston Seed Company across the street from the Boston Implement Co. after their return from WWII. In 1958, the brothers acquired the Boston Implement Co., and Boston Tractor Company was officially born in Boston, Georgia.
Throughout the 1970s, John Deere was driving a boom in innovation through the release of new models and different types of farm and construction equipment. Deere’s reputation for creativity and invention continued into the 1990s, bringing the opportunity for strong growth within Boston Tractor Company.
In 1978, Boston Tractor Company relocated 8 miles east, to the heart of the Brooks County agricultural region, where they built a new 14,500 square foot facility. While the facility remains today, they have since expanded. Meanwhile, something else was developing 600 miles away in Arkansas.
“Frank Lyon, a successful businessman in Arkansas bought several John Deere dealerships in 1981,” said Matthew Carlton, Chief Operating Officer of Ag-Pro Companies. “He rebranded the dealerships as Agricultural Productivity Companies, or Ag-Pro. In 2000, Boston Tractor Company started acquiring additional dealerships, eventually purchasing the seven Arkansas locations, known as Ag-Pro.”
The 1990s and 2000s were a time of change and growth for the Boston Tractor Company. After the passing of James Sr. in 1994 and Dick’s retirement in 1998, James Jr. and Thomas Stone (a high-performing salesman within the company) bought Dick’s share of the company and together set their eyes on growing sales while expanding the company.
“James Jr. and Thomas partnered with other star-salesmen within the company and started purchasing under-performing local dealerships in Georgia,” said Carlton. “This proved to be very successful, as they improved sales at each dealership they acquired by the millions.”
1998 launched the era of growth for Boston Tractor Company with acquisitions across South Georgia and North Florida. Each acquisition quickly earned exponential sales growth. The expansion reached Arkansas in 2010 and Ag-Pro was purchased. Matthew Carlton relocated to Arkansas to lead the seven locations. In four years, Arkansas sales grew by approximately $100 million.
Two years later, in 2012, Boston Tractor Company officially rebranded under one name: Ag-Pro. This strategic move created consistency across the company and across states, and further positioned the company as a leading, forward-thinking John Deere dealership group.
“We’re now in 5 states – South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Texas,” said Groover. “It’s really amazing to see a vision started way back in 1958 make its way to what it is now. We shifted with the times, much like Deere & Co. did, and I really think that’s why both are still thriving today.”
Both John Deere and Ag-Pro have continued the tradition of equipment innovation, from agricultural roots and the first John Deere tractor 100 years ago, to serving multiple industries including residential lawn care, professional landscaping, small- and large-scale farming operations, construction endeavors, and more.
The future is bright for both John Deere and Ag-Pro, and neither shows signs of slowing. John Deere is the gold standard for farm, lawn and construction equipment, while Ag-Pro is a successful, leading example within the dealership groups across the United States.