In 1948 my parents, Jane and Harry Willson, started Sunnyland Farms. Quite an endeavor for a young married couple with a young, growing family. Jane, Arthur, Bill and I grew up right along with the business.
1964 Willson Family
My father (Harry) passed away in 2004 and my Mother (Jane) has slowed down a bit and handed the reins to the next generation of Willsons. Beverly and I and all the good folks who work with us feel well prepared to continue Sunnyland’s tradition of shipping only the finest quality pecans and other products to you. We would like to show you around our farm and plant and introduce you to some of the people who take care of your orders. Welcome to Sunnyland.
JR With New Truck
J.R. Goodman oversees the maintenance of the pecan grove. It’s a yearround job that keeps him and his team busy. They are their busiest during our harvest season.
Shuck Has Split
Pecans start to ripen in October. We know that harvest is getting close when the nut’s protective shuck starts to split.
As soon as the nuts are fully ripe, Shaker Driver Willie D. Hill gets our pecan harvest underway.
Tim Washington sweeps the nuts shaken from the trees into windrows. As harvesters follow, the nuts are loaded into wagons.
The loads of pecans are emptied into hoppers that feed into the Cleaning – Grading Plant. Clem Washington keeps this process running smoothly.
Once inside, all the nuts are inspected. Cora Cleveland supervises; she makes sure all 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.
Next stop for the pecans is our Shelling Plant. Allen Goodman manages this operation. He is a quality control expert. Years of experience makes him uniquely qualified for this responsibility, turning out the “Best Pecans Possible.”
Each nut is cracked one-by-one by our state-of-the-art rotary crackers.
Nuts are then separated from the shells by a series of blowers, shakers and ‘electric eyes.’ Renee Stephens keeps them running smoothly.
Every nut is then passed down inspection tables where they are checked one more time for quality.
Jean Westbrook checks samples from all lots to make sure the nuts sent to Kitchen, Toasting and Packing are the best.
Dinah and David
Dinah Barbre delivers freshly shelled nuts to Kitchen and Toasting. Also to David Mullins who stores them in our 20°F freezers so they stay nice and new crop fresh.
Willie Harrison delivers packaging supplies to all the departments. He is a busy young man.
Our kitchen always smells so good! Alicia Hall is in charge of all the cooking, the baking and the candy making. And she has lots of great help.
Pat and Gwen
Pat Williams is the candy expert. Gwen Kegler is in charge of baking. Both help Alicia develop new recipes. You’ll see several this year.
Time and temperature is crucial for chocolate melting and spreading. Collis Grace handles this job very well.
Irene and Stephanie
Irene Potts, Alicia’s Asst., and Stephanie Carter see to the packing of all the delicious candies and cakes made in the kitchen.
Linda and Clementine
Then another inspection before the nuts are sent to the Packing Department.
Elizabeth and Sandra M
The Packing Department is managed by Elizabeth Smith and Asst. Sandra Mathis. They oversee the packing of hundreds of boxes of pecans and other nuts each day.
Sandra H and Pat
Everything runs smoothly with the help of Table Leaders Sandra Hopkins and Pat Fowler.
Along with Marian Mitchell, Cheryl Brown, Kaneika Willis and Fay Wafford, they all work together to see that all your boxes are packed with great care.
Leshonda and Allen
Leshonda Jones is now in charge of Shipping. She prints shipping labels, maintains manifests and schedules trailer pulls. She and UPS Rep Allen Joiner keep in touch.
When the labels with your order information are ready they are given to Beverly Jackson. She then distributes them to the folks that will gather your orders.
Regina Daniels keeps the Shipping Department supplied with all the items needed to fill those orders.
Monenk and Tiffany
Monenk McGhee and Tiffany Offord check to make sure the correct items were gathered, then pack them securely and send across a scale to the UPS trailers.
UPS keeps us supplied with trailers. As soon as one is filled, it is replaced. We ship as many boxes each day as possible.
Harrell Norris keeps all of our departments in full operating order. He is a very popular man at the height of the season. If it’s broke, he can fix it. And he is Safety Director. The two jobs do seem to go hand in hand.
Larry and Bill
We spend a lot of time reviewing new items we consider adding to our catalog. Here I visit with Bill Harris from Cafe’ Campesino. We enjoyed a cup of his fine coffee that made the cut.
Debbie, Beverly and Larry
Our good friend Debbie Mazur helped us with our Pecan Pie recipe. Beverly and I agree, we have a winner!
Debbie Brown is in charge of our team that answers the phone when you call to place orders.
Team of Operators
Imagine, they take your orders in Ohio, but they are instantly on our server here at the farm. Information technology today is really amazing.
Rick, David, Jeff and Barbara Ann
Speaking of technology, Rick Childress, David Cable and Jeff Rainey at Intellithought manage our website. BarbaraAnn Collins keeps us connected to you through social media.
Wallace and Robert
More technology: Wallace Houston is our in-house IT expert. He worked closely with Robert McCool who installed our new phone system this summer.
Teresa and Todd
We take pictures for the catalog right here at the farm. Teresa Barbre sets up shots for our favorite photographer, Todd Stone.
Gay Lasseter is our Quark expert. She does all the graphic work for our catalogs and flyers and helps with customer care.
Saundra and Robyn
Saundra Bryant and Robyn Kimsey enter mail orders and answer the phone. They can answer most any question for you.
Beverly is in charge of all of our insurance, a really big job. And she is the direct contact for all Wholesale customers.
Larry and Virginia
Virginia Tucker was my Father’s Asst. for more than 30 years. She has been invaluable to me since he passed away. All of us will miss her when she retires in January.
This is the earliest picture we could find. Then and now, she has always been a classy lady.
Virginia and Calvin
This is a favorite picture from Family Day 2004. Virginia and Calvin had as much fun as anyone.
Queen for a Day
Several years ago the Shelling Plant hosted a ‘Queen For the Day’ party for her. We suspect retirement will mean ‘Queen for The Day’ most every day.
Frankye LeMay will also be missed when she retires at the end of December. She came to us in 1975 and has been a tremendous asset to Sunnyland. For years she was refered to as Jane Willson’s right arm. Quite a compliment.
She is the plant-wide ‘go to’ person. If there’s a problem, she’s the person that will find a solution.
Helping In Shipping
While much of her work involves planning, schedules and reports, she never hesitates to jump in wherever needed. This picture (mid 80’s) shows her labeling boxes to be loaded onto the UPS trucks at the height of the Christmas rush.
Another fun party to celebrate Frankye’s 25th anniversary. Lots of gifts and momentos. Evident to all that she is much loved and appreciated.
Frankye With Grands
When asked what she planned to do with all the free time, her reply was, “Spend it with my grandchildren.” Our loss will be their gain. We could not be happier for Virginia and Frankye as they start this new season of their lives.
Moving forward, we are very excited to tell you that our oldest son Alex has left the financial sector. In late July he moved his family to Albany and will be working with us here at Sunnyland. We must say, “His timing is perfect!”
Beverly, Alex and Larry
Alex was born about a month after we moved into our home where we still live today.
Like most boys in South Georgia, Alex played baseball in the Spring.
Summer Job with Poppa
Once in high school, he spent the summer months working at Sunnyland, mostly with the farm crew. He worked on the irrigation system for our flower beds. His Poppa was grateful.
One of the perks of being back in Albany is being closer to his Mother’s Banana Bread. He affectionately calls her “Steramo.”
We had a 91st birthday celebration for Mother last October. My siblings Bill, Arthur and Jane were here for the weekend.
Extended family including our granddaughter Sophie and younger cousin Maria also came.
At Beech Haven
In February, Mother visited good friend Madeline VanDyck in Athens, GA. A favorite spot for walks is Beech Haven which borders the Oconee River.
Dinner with Friends
Always good to be back home. Here she enjoys hosting some of her longtime Albany friends.
Alex, Sophie and Staci
As noted earlier, oldest son Alex moved his family to Albany in July and is now working with us at Sunnyland. We could not be happier.
Before the move Alex and Staci visited England and France. Here they are at Stonehenge, a “must-see” when you visit Great Britain.
Sophie just may be more excited than her Mom about Mother’s Day brunch at Bistro Niko.
Justin and Sasha
Our younger son Justin and his wife Sasha visited her family last summer in St. Petersburg, Russia. They enjoyed the beautiful gardens of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra Monastery.
Jade and Justin
In September of last year, they moved to Chicago where Justin attended the University of Chicago. They were there thru May. Before leaving Chicago, Justin performed an original piece at Hyde Park Union Church accompanied by Chicago Jazz artist Jade Madze. You can see the video on our Facebook page.
Justin and Sasha
They will again spend the summer visiting Sasha’s family. When they return home, home will be in New Jersey. Justin will enter the Ph.D program at Princeton in September.
Visiting St. Petersburg
Beverly and I joined Justin and Sasha last summer in St. Petersburg. We enjoyed meeting her parents Liliya and Dmitriy.
Larry and Beverly
We had a great visit and enjoyed doing all the things that tourists do.
Beverly and Teddy
Whether from Russia or from the office, Teddy always welcomes us home.
Larry and Beverly
Can’t close without saying “Thank you” to all of you who have ordered from Sunnyland in the past and to those of you who will consider us this fall.
Beverly and I and all the folks who work with us are grateful for the opportunity to serve you.
All the best,
Larry and Beverly