April 10, 2017
Rome wasn’t built in a day (or so they say) and likewise, pecan trees don’t grow overnight. Decades ago a Texan named Hal Bedroll and his wife, Lisa, decided they would start a pecan grove. For years they planted trees and grew their business, raising a family amongst the immense grove of trees. Eventually, they put a sign out on Highway 71 that runs past the farm to sell pecans. Customers would come in off the highway and buy pecans out of the family’s garage. Hal, Lisa and their kids started making candy and other goodies from the pecans and would test new recipes in their family kitchen.
Fast forward over 30 years and today the farm is over 300 acres, has 15,000 trees in the orchard and 90,000 in the nursery. A few years back, Hal and Lisa decided it was time to sell the grove and it now below to a company called Pecan Grove Farms. The company runs the farm on the same principles as which it was started and still operates very much like a family run operation. At the helm of Administration and Finance for Pecan Grove Farms sits Stacy Whitener. I’ve heard about what a powerhouse Stacy is from multiple sources so I knew it was worth a trip to meet her.
On my visit to PGF Stacy met out front, at the Bedroll Pecan Store (more about that later…). I followed her back through hundreds of acres of pecan trees, ranging from big mature trees to what appeared to be newer trees. We stopped at the small office and I followed her inside. Stacy spends most of her time at the company’s offices in Dallas, but also makes regular visits to the farm to visit with the various employees to visit and go over problems or issues. On that day she was working with Ruby, the office manager to work on payroll, some issues with cell phones and some other typical business stuff. She then took me on a tour of the amazing farm, starting at the nursery.
She explained that Hal Bedroll started the nursery and PGF is working hard to continue the operation. It is an important part of the business and what they do as it allows the company access to their very own, proprietary new nursery stock. This allows them to grow at their own pace and gives them flexibility and perfection in the stock they are growing. We then stopped in at what used to be the Bedroll family home - the one Hal and Lisa sold pecans out of the garage. The sprawling home was surrounded by pecan trees as far as the eye could see and I couldn’t help but feel envious of the luck kids who got to grow up in that little slice of paradise.
Next, we met Travis, the Farm Manager, who Stacy explained keeps everything running. If something is going on at the farm, Travis is behind it. He showed us the machinery that sorts they pecans following harvest and the area where they can shell pecans as well. As my visit with Stacy wrapped to a close it was clear this woman was passionate about not only her role at PGF, but about the people she works with and the product they grow. She is an avid advocate for agriculture and spends part of her time volunteering with the California Women in Agriculture group to help lobby for issues that affect the industry. Sometimes FarmHers aren’t the ones out in the field, harvesting the crop or managing the farm. Sometimes FarmHers are the administration details and the finance sense that makes the business work….and without those FarmHer’s playing that role, the business wouldn’t go or grow.
Though my visit to Stacy wrapped to a close, my visit to the pecan farm was far from over. I stopped back out at the highway and walked into the sweetest smelling pecan paradise I can imagine. Did I mention pecans are my absolute favorite nut? Upon entering the Bedroll Pecan Store I could immediately see the fruits of all of the labor that goes into the groves sitting in the background. The store is the next generation of the pecan selling that Hal and Lisa did out of their garage. They started the store and for years sold pecans, candies, pies and all kinds of other merchandise and goods. When they decided to sell the groves, their daughter Jennifer just couldn’t fathom parting with the store, which played a significant role in her childhood. She and her husband made the decision to purchase the store from her parents and today have expanded the business in some pretty cool ways. In 2011 the Berdoll's built a processing plant and candy kitchen right next door to the retail store. They have a 30 foot enrobed chocolate machine, two convectional ovens, a honey glazed machine, and many more machines and hands running daily to create the mouth-watering candies and flavored pecans that are not only sold in the store but shipped all over the country. After a quick tour through the facility with Jennifer, I can attest to the mouth watering part. The smell of chocolate, honey, and baked pecans was absolutely wonderful.
One of the coolest parts of the store, in my opinion, is that all of the pecans that are made into candies or baked goods come straight from the groves behind the store - and straight from the farm that Jennifer’s parents started generations earlier. My trip to the Bedroll store wasn’t complete until Jennifer and I took a quick picture by the 13 foot tall Miss Pearl, the squirrel. Next time you find yourself on Highway 71 in Texas, just outside of Austin, look for Pearl and pull off to follow your nose and your stomach into the store. The Bedroll store, run by the second generation of family is a true treasure and a great way for Jennifer to carry on the agricultural traditions of the Bedroll family.
Visit the pecan shop and watch video clips here.
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