FOR 39 YEARS Thomas Ellis has practicedagricultural diversification through his cattle,poultry, and pecan processing and manufacturing enterprises at Triple E. Farm and Priester’s Pecans, Inc. A third-generation LowndesCounty farmer, Ellis grew up on a dairy farmand studied marketing and agriculture atAuburn University. He purchased part of acommercial beef herd from the widow of alocal cattleman in 1981 and began to rentpasture until he bought his farmland in thefall of that year. Two years later, he and hiswife, Melissa, built their first broiler houses.
Today their operation spans 1,000 acres ofowned and rented land and includes annualproduction units of 45 cows and calves, six-to- 12 bulls, 1,000 head of stocker calves, andthree poultry houses that produce approximately 400,000 chickens. Additional cropsinclude 450 acres of grazing, 400 acres ofmixed summer grasses, and 60 acres of ryegrass and winter peas for baleage.
Calves from cows are marketed throughstockyard sales, board sales, or replacementheifer and bull sales. Bulls are sold primarily in conjunction with Meadow Creek Farm’sannual “It’s All Black and White Bull Sale” onthe first Friday in December. Stocker calvesare primarily contract-grazed for son TaberEllis or sold through board sales if owned. Thepoultry are contract-grown with Koch Foodsin Montgomery.
Thomas Ellis also owns Priester’s Pecans,
Inc., a pecan processing
and manufacturing busi-
ness begun in 1935 by
Hense Ellis, and L.C. Pries-
ter. The company cracks,
shells, and processes
more than 1.5 million lbs.
of improved gift-quality
varieties of pecans per
year. Samples of their
products include gour-
met candy, baked goods,
and savory snacks, with
such delicious specialty
items as pralines, divinity,
pecan pies, pecan cheese
straws, blackberry pecan
preserves, roasted pecan syrups, and honey-
glazed and roasted pecans in small or bulk
Ellis noted, “In 2018, I became owner of
the Priester’s Pecans brand as well as the
pecan shelling and manufacturing business.
On average, we have about 100 employees
in our various operations. We buy pecans
directly from growers in Alabama, Georgia,
Priester’s sells its pecan products directly
to consumers through catalog and website
sales, through organized group fundraising
programs, and through wholesale agree-
ments to a broad range of companies that
resell them. Thomas Ellis’s sister and her fam-
ily operate Priester’s Retail, Inc. that manages
a brick-and-mortar store as well.
Thomas Ellis’s wife, Melissa, is the fulcrumof the agribusiness, the one who, as Thomasput it, “pulls us all together by taking careof our home and supporting all our efforts.”They’ve been married since July 1979. Shemaintains the books and helps in multipleother ways, including serving as Priester’s corporate secretary/treasurer and supervisingits product development and catalog design.Melissa has been an active member of theLowndes County Cattlewomen’s Associationin the past, serving as president, vice president, and secretary.
FARMER OF THE YEAR
Thomas and Melissa Ellis