Clinton County, Illinois
Through the years, Ralph Voss has become the Illinois pecan expert.
With 150 acres of pecan groves, he and his wife Karen are the northern-most commercial pecan growers in the country. Ralph is always on the cutting edge of what it takes to grow pecans this far north. Much like conventional crops, the development of new pecan varieties helps the plants to resist insects, disease and drought.
“We are able to fill a niche that’s evolving with consumers,” Ralph says. “People care about their food quality and origin, and the health benefits from foods like pecans.”
Near and Far
Customers buy the Voss’s cracked Pawnee pecans—a large nut with a thin shell—at their home, from Nov. 15 to Jan. 1, and throughout the season at farmers’ markets, from Springfield and Champaign to St. Louis. The Voss’s send smaller native varieties of nuts to a processor in northeast Oklahoma—the nearest federally inspected pecan-specific facility—for shelling. The Voss’s sell the ready-to-use pecans to grocers, bakeries, online customers and buyers who seek them out at farmers’ markets and their farm.
Ralph and Karen travel to local and out-of-state venues and attend national conferences to share their knowledge and learn from other growers. Balancing the demands of their farming businesses means the Voss’s rarely have time to visit their local Farm Credit office. On-farm service means they don’t have to.
“In the years we have worked with the Highland office, I haven’t been there once,” says Ralph. “Our loan officer comes to the farm anytime we need to take care of business. That personal service is vital to our success.”