Back in 2008, Jim Anthony made the decision to move the Leonard Nut Company operation from 2901 Cullen Street in Fort Worth to its operation within the Pecan Plantation orchard in Granbury. The greatest benefactors of Anthony’s decision have been the orchard’s residents. Lazily slaloming between pecan trees on the orchard grounds, hundreds of happy consumers pick from the crop of nuts each fall. They watch passers-by without so much as a greeting, mindful to stay clear from the cars or harvest implement that shake the pecans from the trees. Some have six, others have eight-point racks. Many are doe.
Hundreds of deer live on the 4,000 acres of Pecan Plantation, and they have significantly greater access to fresh pecans than the thousands of customers who routinely buy gift tins from the orchard’s retail operation. Anthony and his family own and operate several business holdings within Pecan Plantation, but none may be busier this time of year than the orchard. Certainly none serve a more grateful population, either within the orchard’s grounds, or across the country.
Anthony’s son Ben oversees the pecan orchard and feverishly shakes trees each November to generate a sustainable crop. Which is to say Ben is charge of the orchard equipment that pulls anywhere from one to 2.5 million pounds of pecans from the sentry-like trees that line over 1,500 acres of workable orchard. He took over control of the orchard operations in 2007.
Nestled within the DeCordova Bend of the Brazos River, Jim Anthony’s father-in-law, O.P. Leonard bought nearly 4,000 acres north of Granbury after World War II. Leonard began clearing and developing the land in 1948, Anthony said, and started training his own cadre of pecan trees, each planted in formation, growing at attention row after row.
Leonard Nut Company was established in 1957 for the purpose of processing the pecan production from the Leonard Farms Orchards that were located in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The pecans would be shipped to the Cullen Street warehouse to be processed and distributed. Not long after the warehouse opened, a holiday tradition was born.
Enterprising gift givers from across Fort Worth decided that it would be best to go straight to the source for their fresh pecans. Local shoppers would go by the Cullen Street Leonard Nut Company warehouse to buy a pound or two of pecans for their pies and other creations. Happy to add to the Leonard Nut Company’s sales, the warehouse workers still had to halt production on their large, commercial orders to help local customers obtain stocking stuffers.
“We’d be working on an order for 40,000 pounds, getting it ready to be shipped out, but would also stop to sell four pounds to a lady to make Christmas gifts,” Ben Anthony said.
Eventually, a store front of sorts was established, and the retail operation was set into motion in 1986. From the warehouse, the Leonard Farms Pecan Store accommodated both holiday shoppers as well as those who simply wanted to buy seasonal pecans. The Leonard Nut Company was promoting “buy local” and “farm to market” retail trends before they were actually trends. They also began shipping holiday tins, and the mail order business began to thrive.
The operations of the Leonard Nut Company and the Cullen Street warehouse were discontinued in 2008, with the processing of Pecan Plantation’s pecan crops being moved to a contract shelter. However, the holiday retail operation continues today, based out of the family’s pecan orchard in Pecan Plantation. And, a storefront continues to serve shoppers at 5261 Highway 377 South.
Ben Anthony utilized available space in Pecan Plantation’s barns and warehouses, and has created an entire kitchen and shipping operation for thousands of holiday pecan orders. From the on-site preparation area, the team creates white chocolate-covered pecans via an extensive production line that would rival anything Lucille Ball worked on. An oven the size of a small fish tank handles thousands of cooking trays each fall to bake pralines and other goods. Butter toffee pecans and other flavors are also created, and shipped, from the store warehouses in Granbury.
Not long ago, the holiday tins were enhanced with corporate logos, ranging from local law firms to nationally-known corporations. The Leonard Farms Pecan Store can produce these gifts year round, Ben Anthony said.
Barring a massive growth in appetite from the local deer population, the holiday season for Pecan Plantation and Leonard Farms Pecan Store should continue to yield great results. While only a small slice of Pecan Plantation’s annual business pie chart, the holiday gift business makes up, perhaps, the most entertaining part of its production. Consumers and gift givers interested in viewing their offerings online can do so at by visiting www.chocolatepecans.com, or by calling (800) 252-6887 toll free. – Mark Z. Maurer