Growth and Progress Shine at Goodson Pecans, a Consumer Focused and Family Run Farm
LEESBURG, GA- Since 1972, Goodson Pecans has become a multi-generational family business that has grown to offer multiple pecan varieties and pecan products. Three generations of Goodson pecan farmers have worked to grow the highest quality of pecans they can offer. They have a family tradition of producing quality and taste. Goodson Pecans now include shelled raw pecans, gourmet pecans and specialty pecan nut butters.
David and his wife Melody are the owners of Goodson Pecans in southwest Georgia. David is a third-generation pecan farmer and the youngest son of Roy and Ruth Goodson. Roy is still active on the farm and is always an excellent source for advice. As a retired University of Georgia County Extension Director, Roy has a vast knowledge of agriculture that he uses to the farm’s advantage.
David grew up working on the farm and growing pecans. He realized from a young age just how much the community loved his father’s pecans. “For years people bought pecans from my dad literally out the back door,” said David. “About 11 years ago, I was riding with my dad and my brother and said, ‘We need to start a website.’ I knew people in the community really loved the quality of Dad’s pecans and believed that other people would as well. After talking about it for two years, I finally made the decision to step out and do it. And that’s when Melody and I started the Goodson Pecans website.”
In 2009, David and Melody began selling shelled pecan halves and pieces as well as a few gourmet flavors online and at a few festivals around South Georgia. They used progressive marketing strategies to promote the value of Goodson Pecans. David started farming full time in 2010. This is when he and Melody started the retail selling of pecan products on the side. They started with small scale manufacturing of 1 or 2 varieties and added on each year. Eventually they grew out of the small cottage kitchen in their house and transitioned to a commercial facility in their hometown.
In 2015, the Goodson family began making all-natural pecan butter. Pecan butter is similar to almond or peanut butter but strictly made from pecans. The original two varieties, Creamy and Crunchy Pecan Butter, are all natural and consist of only two ingredients: pecans and just a touch of sea salt. Goodson Pecan Butters are designed as healthier offerings to include people who have food allergies. All processing is done in their peanut-free facility in Leesburg, GA. The Goodson’s use their own pecans in their products as well as other Georgia Grown pecans if needed.
Over the years, they have developed unique and award-winning gourmet varieties as well as a full line of all-natural pecan butters. This retail and manufacturing business has seen much growth and development since it began. David and Melody’s children are also involved in helping on the farm and at the retail and manufacturing facility. As it continues to grow, the Goodson’s look forward to what is in store for the future.
The grant has been instrumental in helping propel the business forward. “The grant has allowed us to do and experience things to improve our business that without the grant wouldn’t happen or happened real slowly,” explained David. For example, the grant gave them the funds needed to enter their honey cinnamon pecan butter into the Good Food Awards. Their butter won the category and that allowed them to receive national recognition for their products.
The grant funds have also been instrumental in allowing them to make a transition to move forward with better ingredients and go cleaner on a variety of their products. Funds have gone towards utilizing employees to work on building recipes that can make products cleaner, with more room for trial and error efforts. Increased marketing venues have increased sales.
One of the showcases for their products is the Americas-Mart wholesale show in Atlanta. The additional grant money allowed them to get a full booth at the show that was in a great section with high traffic. This produced increased volume and gained new customers. Funding also allows for additional help at shows, especially like the Georgia National Fair, which David considers to be a great Georgia Grown product showcase.
“These shows are very expensive, without the grant funding it’s hard for a business to pull funds from other areas for entries and booths. By having grant funds to use for more help and labor at these shows, we can focus more on marketing and making connections with customers,” explained David. A new website was developed using some grant funds. In hand, this has allowed them to offer free shipping and other discounts to help drive sales, while giving them the freedom to try and see how customers respond to different tactics.
Future plans for the Goodson’s consist of continued expansion into wholesale and retail markets in the southeast United States, with the possibility of some International locations as well. They are launching a product catalog this fall and have redesigned their gift boxes.
Long term plans include the possibility of having the processing facility move from town to the farm. This would allow the Goodson’s to create an agritourism venue, which would give the opportunity to have their farm and their products all in one location.
About USDA VAPG
VAPG funding has been offered by the USDA periodically since the early 2000s. A new round of funding is anticipated to be announced in the coming months. To be considered value added, projects must show how products are differentiated in specific ways from commodity crops. Typically, projects must also show how they may deliver greater returns to producers.
Independent producers, farmer or rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and producer-owned business ventures, including non-profit organizations, may apply. In previous cycles, applicants were required to be producers of the raw commodity who will maintain ownership of that commodity through the process of creating a value-added product. Grants have been available for planning projects (such as marketing and business plans and feasibility studies) and working capital projects (which might include wages or packaging supplies). (http://www.rd.usda.gov/)
Ag Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) Assistance
Producers and ranchers, cooperatives and other agricultural businesses can find a wide-ranging set of tools and information to help them in pursuing VAPG funding at the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) (www.agmrc.org). On a variety of value-added topics and across products, AgMRC is a rich resource for agricultural businesses, from startup to advanced growth stages. Directories for state and federal resources, specialty crop information, legal guidance, assessment, and spreadsheet tools and other types of business training are available.