Diversification is often a key to agricultural success, and Texas farmer Kinley Sorrells has fully embraced the concept, diversifying the products he grows as well as how he sells them, including launching an online retail store several years ago.
Since he founded Sorrells Farms in 1977, Kinley has been primarily a pecan grower, starting with his initial purchase of a pecan farm he had been managing and adding adjacent acreage as it became available. His current 1,200 acre spread, which he farms now with his son, Gayland, is home to more than 1,000 acres of pecan trees, 25 acres of peach trees and 150 acres of produce, including watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, tomatoes and jalapenos. To further ensure a consistent year-round income stream, Sorrells Farms also includes a 100-head cow/calf operation. Gayland also owns a 70 acre pecan orchard of his own, and along with his father, is a Farm Credit customer.
Kinley's largest crop by far is pecans, 75% of which is sold in the wholesale market, both domestic and international. Operating in the global market means that Kinley needs to be adaptable: last year, 60% of his sales were to international customers; this year, he expects that number to increase to 95% simply because the export market is offering a better price. “Kinley is adaptable to market conditions,” says Mitchell Harris, CEO of AgTexas Farm Credit Services. “He understands the dynamics of the market and the value of trade regardless of location.”
Kinley also sells both his pecans and produce to a large regional grocery chain and to a number of local grocery stores. Supplying these local businesses is important to him, because, he says, “These are the people who gave me the encouragement to keep growing, so I continue to support them.”
Several years ago, Kinley established a retail store of his own, first on his farm and then moving it last fall to a dedicated storefront in a nearby town. In addition to fresh shelled pecans, the shop sells everything from roasted and flavored pecans to dips, salsas and jellies. It also includes a commercial kitchen which produces a variety of fudges and baked goods. Delinda, Kinley’s wife, is in charge of purchasing and marketing a unique array of gift items. The store has been so successful that Kinley anticipates building a sister store near Dallas/Fort Worth in a few years, on land he’s already purchased with this expansion in mind. To round out his sales and distribution operations, in 2009 Kinley created an online retail store, an effort led by his daughter-in-law, Tami. “We knew that there was a lot of business out there that we weren’t able to tap into because people didn’t know about us,” he says. It was the right move, as Sorrells Farms’ online sales have increased significantly each year since the website was launched.