Sunnyland Farms gets a global spotlight

Farm also talks lasting impacts from Hurricane Michael
Video from WALB
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 5:42 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - One of South Georgia’s farms was featured on the worldwide stage.

Sunnyland Farms got the spotlight in a recent article in National Geographic.

Sunnyland Farms is an almost 1,760-acre pecan farm just outside Albany.

Alex Willson is the chief operating officer at Sunnyland Farms and he said he appreciated the spotlight the article gave his family business.

“Some people I haven’t spoken to in a while shot me the link and said, ‘wow how did this happen?’ Or, ‘this is pretty cool.’ It’s garnered some eyeballs which is pretty good,” Willson said.

Alex Willson is the chief operating officer of Sunnyland Farms.
Alex Willson is the chief operating officer of Sunnyland Farms.(WALB)

The conversation with the publication dove into the family farm, its history and its impact on South Georgia. From a small farm in the 40s to the hundreds of thousands of trees they have today.

“All things from the farming side, to the processing to the shelling. We had a 30 to 40 minute conversation,” Willson said.

Willson said he hasn’t gotten increased traffic because of the article and continues to deal with problems from inflation. Pesticides cost nearly 4x more than what they did last year.

The business continues to expand. They recently moved into their new office building and have plans to expand their kitchen with more employees in the near future. As is, Sunnyland is also a big employer for the area.

“From the farming side, we supply jobs. On the processing side is where we really provide a lot of jobs year-round. At this time of year, we have around 70 people. When harvest starts, we’ll bring pecans in the shelling plant and will flex it up between 125 and 150,″ Willson said.

Getting employees is a challenge lately. The toughest, for Willson, is trying to break even with this year’s harvest.

Hurricane Michael still has its imprints on the business, destroying 4,100 of 35,000 trees almost four years ago.

Willson said it takes trees 10-12 years for a pecan tree to get back into normal production. This means more than 10% of his trees aren’t producing nuts yet.

Willson said it’s hard to tell what their margins will look like at the end of the year, but he’s optimistic they will come out ahead.

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