Pecan company expands to include its own product lines
Golden, flavorful and loaded with health benefits. The native Missouri pecan is a popular ingredient bakers love to add to their homemade cookies and candies during the holiday season. Their robust flavor coupled with nutritional benefits make it a delicious and healthy food option.
True Missouri Pecans, LLC., located in Nevada, Mo., officially opened their doors in January 2018. The business is owned by Brantley True Johnson who also owns Farmers Ag & Grain Supply in Deerfield and Nevada, Mo.
Brantley has been picking pecans from Missouri farmers and selling them to large, wholesale companies in Texas for more than 15 years.
He transitioned into the retail side when he started True Missouri Pecans. The company takes pride in the fact they only harvest, process and sell pecans grown in Missouri.
In 2017, they picked more than one million pounds of pecans. They have processed around 400,000 pounds in their facility since it opened in January.
Their nut product line includes halves, large and medium pieces packaged in 30-pound boxes or 1-pound vacuum sealed bags. They recently added a new product, an all-natural, cold-pressed pecan oil.
Ozarks Farm & Neighbor spoke with Kris Sisseck, plant manager, production and sales oversight; and Heather Vestal, office manager and sales representative.
“To my knowledge, this is the healthiest oil on the market. I can’t stress enough that it is cold pressed. No steam and no additives. It is not shelf-stable so it must be refrigerated at all times, ” Kris explained.
“It’s a liquid pecan,” Heather added.
Ninety-eight percent of their pecans are harvested from native, 100-year-old trees, not commercial groves. Although the nuts from the native trees are smaller, Kris has found them to be more flavorful and have a higher oil content. The more oil that can be extracted from a nut, the more health benefits it will provide.
“K-State has my oil right now and I am waiting for a full analysis to come back. A lot of the vitamins are literally off the charts, including Vitamin E and D,” Kris said.
Pecans are a seasonal product, with 90 percent of sales occurring August through December. Their eight pickers start harvesting around Oct. 1 through May 1.
The employees drive climate-controlled tractors with picking and shaking attachments. First, the pecans are shaken out of the tree with the Savage Tree Shaker. Once the pecans are on the ground, another tractor picks them up with a Savage Picker and dumps them into a bulk wagon or semi. From there, the pecans are transported to the processing facility.
“We can process 5,000 pounds per day. We do not work weekends, so on 240 working day schedule, we can process 1.2 million pounds of pecans per year,” Kris said.
The whole pecans are sorted by size and cleaned upon their arrival. They are submerged in 180 degree water for sanitation. They do not use bleach or chemicals. This removes salmonella, E Coli, animal feces, and dirt from the nut.
After the pecans are sanitized, they go directly into the shelling machines . These machines will crack, shell, shake, dry, and sort the pecan meat by size.
In the final phase of production, the pecan meats travel across a conveyer belt and any small shell pieces are picked out by hand. After this, they are inspected, boxed and ready to be sold.
“The pecans are dried to 4.5 percent moisture. I like them a touch drier so they don’t mold,” Kris said.
The packaged pecan meats are stored in refrigeration at 35 degrees or below. The in-shell pecans must be stored at 45 degrees or below or the meats will turn brown and lose flavor.
“People not from pecan country think pecans are dark brown because that is what they see in the store or as furniture stain. Pecans are supposed to be a golden color,” Kris said.
Kris explained how 100 pounds of nuts will only yield 38 pounds of sellable product. It takes an abundance of pecans to accumulate an adequate supply of pecan meat.
“It is not necessarily weight, but there is a lot of by-product. The shell can be used for mulch and sandblasting. We are burning the shell to heat our water. We are extremely efficient here. We are eventually going to burn the shell to heat our dryers too,” Kris explained.
Keeping the facility sanitized is the most important aspect of the job, Kris noted. The facility, including equipment, floors and buckets are cleaned daily. Visitors are kept at a minimum to prevent contaminants and keep the product safe.
True Missouri Pecans is not certified organic only because they apply nitrate to their trees to increase yields. Kris said the operation does not have plans to go organic in the future.
Since they are a new retail company, they have been using Facebook page to promote their nuts and oil to the public. They hope to soon see their products on the shelves at local stores and plan to expand into the Northeast, Northwest and foreign markets.