Inside Sunnyland Farms

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Jane Willson always said that her customers were really “friends that I have not yet met.” This was a sincere statement from her heart. There was a unique bond between her and the folks that trust Sunnyland with their business each year. Traditionally we have used the opening panel of our catalog to say Hello to our customers and to welcome new browsers. This year, we use it to let you know that our Mother, Mother-in-Law, Grandmother and Great Grandmother slipped peacefully away as she slept on November 3, 2015. As a 3rd generation family business, we are grateful that she invested so much of her time and energy in creating a standard of excellence at Sunnyland that is second to none. As we approach the start of our 68th Holiday Season, you can rest assured that “ONLY THE BEST” remains the standard. So whether you are new to Sunnyland or one of those “friends we’ve not yet met,” we’d like to show you around…

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Our plant is nestled in the middle of 1,700 acres of majestic pecan trees. There are more pecan trees in this part of Georgia than any other place in the U.S.

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The whistle stop at the nearby railroad track is appropriately named.

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J.R. Goodman manages the grove, a year-round job that keeps him and his team busy. Of course, they are at their busiest during harvest season.

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This is what they are watching for in mid-October: pecans that are almost ready to be gathered.

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Benny Howard makes sure all equipment is in good working order as harvest approaches.

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One of our lead shaker drivers is Willie D. Hill. As soon as the pecans are fully ripe, he and and J.T. Thomas head to the grove. Harvest has begun.

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J.T. Thomas is our other lead shaker driver. Once the pecans are fully ripe, he and Willie D. Hill head to the grove to begin the harvesting process.

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Tim Washington drives the sweeper that pushes the shaken nuts into windrows. They are then picked up by harvesters.

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Clem Washington receives the pecans when they arrive at our Cleaning-Grading plant.

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Once inside, all the nuts are inspected. Cora Cleveland supervises; she makes sure Grade B nuts are separated out. This is the first “sizing” of the nuts. Every crop year is different. “Mammoth Pecans” can vary a great deal in size from one season to the next.

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The next stop for the pecans is our Shelling Plant. Allen Goodman is in charge of this process. His many years of experience make him uniquely qualified for this job. He understands everything that is required to produce “Only The Best.”

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Allen gets plenty of help throughout this process, first from our state-ofthe- art rotary crackers. Each nut is cracked one by one.

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Then more help from a series of blowers, shakers and electric eyes. Amazing that these machines can separate nuts from shell and distinguish color, separating dark nuts from light. Renee Stephens monitors the equipment to insure all runs smoothly.

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Technology is great, but there is no replacement for the human eye. Once the machines have done their job, our team of inspectors steps in. Every pecan half and pecan piece travels down a table where trained inspectors cull anything the machines have missed. This is tedious work but it is vital to producing the top quality pecans we guarantee.

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Josephine Brown is in charge of the scales in the Shelling Plant. She makes sure every box is accuarately weighed.

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Jean Westbrook is in charge of the inspectors. Allen says she is his ‘right arm’. He depends on her to make sure everything is running as it should in the grading area. Jean, along with her assistant Denise Sutton check samples from every lot to insure that all the nuts that are sent to Toasting, Kitchen and Packing are of the highest standard. All this effort leads to nice notes like this one: ‘Wanted to send my thanks for the great pecans, Super Good, Top Notch, I could go on, but really appreciate the excellent quality.’ Nora, Indianatlantic, FL

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Many of the pecan halves are designated for Toasting which is just across the walkway from Shelling. Linda Hall has been managing the Toasting Room for years. She has seen many changes over time, all improvements. From the continuous cooking toaster to the latest in temperature controls, her team is well equipped.

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Clementine Key and Kenyata Jackson are her assistants. They supervise toasting of not only the thousands of pounds of pecans, but also cashews, almonds and peanuts.

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Just as in Shelling, one more inspection before the nuts receive the “Seal of Approval.”

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Kitchen is a favorite stop for visitors, likely because it smells so good! Alicia Hall supervises the team that makes all our delicious Candies, Chocolates and Cakes.

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Everyone was excited when our new oven was installed this past Spring. Much more efficient than our old oven, which had served us well, but it was time for an upgrade.

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Gwen Kegler oversees baking – she was all smiles!

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Pat Williams is our candy expert. She can roll Pecan Logs as fast as anyone.

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Collis Grace will tell you she has the ‘sweetest’ job in the kitchen. Melting chocolate is her specialty. She’s an expert at melting at just the right temperatures.

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Irene Potts oversees packing of the many tasty treats that the kitchen manufactures.

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Stephanie Carter delivers bulk product to the Packing Department where it will be used in combination boxes.

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Elizabeth Smith is ready for those deliveries. She is in charge of Packing where so many of our gift tins, gift boxes and our popular home boxes are prepared.

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For many years Sandra Mathis was Elizabeth’s assistant. Not any more! As of April 1, 2016, she has happily joined the ranks of the retired.

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Cheryl Brown has taken on more responsibility as has Sandra Hopkins. Cheryl makes sure that packing schedules are in place and that the right products are on hand. Knowing that efficiency is the key, Sandra makes sure packing supplies are also in place. These two ladies run a tight ship…

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…with the help of these three ladies: Marian Mitchell, Pat Fowler and Fay Wafford. They make sure that all goes well in the Hopper Room, the Candy Room and in the Inshell Room. They turn out hundreds of beautiful packages.

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Her first love is Shipping, but she also works closely with Shelling, Kitchen and Packing to be sure that everyone has what they need. If problems arise, and sometimes they do, she will quickly get things back on track. More responsibility means Leshonda needs really good help, and she has it.

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Mesha Wafford prints the labels for Shipping.

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Monenk McGhee then distributes them so orders can be gathered quickly.

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Regina Daniels stocks Shipping with all the items needed for the labels.

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Tiffany Offord helps pack and scan the boxes (along with Beverly Jackson) before sending them to the waiting UPS trucks.

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Beverly Jackson helps Tiffany Offord pack and scan the boxes. They then send the boxes on to the waiting UPS trucks for shipment.

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Harrell Norris is our Plant Manager and Safety Director.

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For years Harrell has kept all departments in optimum working order. We are all going to miss him when he retires in March of 2017.

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Whether supervising the start of a new building, or helping repair a forklift or keeping up to date on new safety regulations, he is always hard at work keeping things running smoothly.

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With so many responsibilities, Harrell has been Sunnyland’s ‘Jack of All Trades.’

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We suspect that Harrell’s next area of expertise will involve water and hooks. A long-time and avid fisherman, he will now have more time to devote to his favorite sport.

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Another retiree is Dinah Barbre, who left this past April. She worked closely with David Mullins managing cold storage inventories.

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David Mullins, who worked with Dinah Barbre managing cold storage inventories, will be retiring at the end of September. Both he and Dinah plan to enjoy more time with family, especially their grandchildren.

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Willie Harrison has stepped into Dinah’s and David’s roles, as well as continuing to manage our package warehouses. A busy man is he, and fortunate to have plenty of capable help.

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Eric Felton works closely with Willie. He makes product and package deliveries and keeps the warehouses organized.

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With all these transitions, we are fortunate that Alex Willson joined our team last July. His organizational and management skills have been invaluable in keeping all operations running smoothly.

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Wallace Houston is our in-house IT guy. He keeps the servers up to speed and helps with hardware issues.

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More and more people prefer to shop on-line. Rick Childress, David Cable and Jeff Rainey of Intellithought make sure that our site is quick and easy to use.

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Everyone seems to enjoy Social Media. BarbaraAnn Collins helps us stay connected with you.

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Debbie Brown manages our call center. She is in charge of the team that answers when you call to place an order.

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They work with us long distance from Ohio, and can answer almost any question you have.

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If there is a question they can’t answer, you will be transferred to the farm where you will likely talk to Saundra Bryant. You will know you’ve reached the farm when you hear her voice. She is our customer service expert. Folks appreciate her so much, she receives fan mail!

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Gay Lasseter is our Quark expert. She does the graphic work on our catalogs along with a myriad of other things.

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Human Resources falls under Beverly Willson’s umbrella. She works with all aspects of our insurance, makes sure records are current and keeps us informed of any policy changes. If that isn’t enough, she is also the direct contact for all of our Wholesale customers.

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Teresa Barbre works with all aspects of our advertising. She also helps develop new products and packaging.

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Mandy Lynn is the first person you will see should you decide to visit us. She works with Larry on accounts and billing, helps Beverly with Wholesale, schedules trucks and answers the phone. She stays busy.

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And now, the Willson Family Update. We are so excited for you to meet our grandsons born to Alex and Staci on Dec 29, 2015. Lawrence Beatty Willson II and older brother (by 1 min.) Henry Allen Willson.

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This picture was taken on the 1 year anniversary of the move from Atlanta to Albany. Alex and Staci have had a really busy year!

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Sophie is so happy to be big sister to her brothers Henry and Beatty. And she loves being the Willson Prima Ballerina.

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Younger son Justin is the scholar of the family.

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He and his wife Sasha enjoy Princeton where Justin is in the second year of his Ph. D. program. Behind them is Alexander Hall, one of the more ornate buildings on the Princeton campus.

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Before classes started last fall they hiked in the Kazbeki region of the country of Georgia.

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Here they are with Sasha’s mother, Liliya, who visited from St. Petersburg, Russia. Always a lot fun when family is in town.

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We enjoyed our visit to Princeton last September. Justin treated us to a tour of Tiger Stadium.

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A weekend in New York for the International Restaurant and Food Show turned into a family affair. Alex was there for the show.

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Justin and Sasha joined us for the weekend. Justin introduced us to a great restaurant in Brooklyn, Bar Omar. His high school classmate Aaron Lee and wife Yasmina are the owners.

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Yasmina’s father, Omar, is a world class chef. How fortunate for us he was in the kitchen the night we were there.

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We visited Alaska this summer for the first time. Breathtaking views.

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Panning for gold was fun. We don’t mind being touristy.

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No matter where we travel, if Beverly doesn’t find the puppies, the puppies will find her.

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Once back at the farm we put the finishing touches on our catalog. We hope you enjoy.

Many thanks to all who have ordered in the past and to those who will consider us this Fall. We are most grateful for the opportunity to serve you.

All the best,
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