As the daughter and granddaughter of distinguished pecan growers, becoming a leader in the pecan industry was in Sally Stahmann’s blood. In fact, as a hardworking and enterprising nine-year-old, Sally personally handpicked pecan nuts and sold them at the grocery store on her family’s orchard in La Mesa, New Mexico, to earn her allowance. However, the true story of Sally’s entry into the industry actually began decades before she was even born.
In 1932, Sally’s grandfather, Deane Stahmann, serendipitously acquired a truckload of pecan tree saplings after a neighboring farmer couldn’t take them in. With the encouragement of his mother (Sally’s great-grandmother) and the help of a few bank loans, Deane continued to purchase and plant pecan trees, steadily growing the family business as he continually grew and harvested America’s native nut.
After Deane passed away in 1970, Sally’s father, William John Stahmann, took over the family orchard, which had expanded to include 4,000 acres and more than 150,000 pecan trees. Although Sally worked for her father while growing up, she aspired to pave her own path, ultimately receiving a degree in industrial engineering from New Mexico State University.
Upon graduating college, Sally decided to return home and help her father run the family business in hopes of repaying him for all he had provided her. After working in tandem for about a decade, William decided to pass control of the entire operation to Sally in 2002, making her the world’s leading female pecan grower and pecan businesswoman.
Sally contributes her success, and the continued success of the family business, on her commitment to quality, care and compassion for her employees, and enduring faith in God. “You can’t be a farmer and not have faith in God,” remarked Sally. “Whether it’s a hail storm or bad weather, there is so much out of your control that you have to have a lot of faith.”
Blessed with three children and two grandchildren, Sally shares the traditions she has learned through the years with her entire family, but has encouraged her children to discover their own paths, just as she did. Inspired by the harvest and the pecan tree’s ability to start anew year after year, Sally maintains her commitment to the family orchard, her 120 hardworking employees and her thriving career.
As for her favorite way to enjoy pecans, Sally loves them lightly toasted in pecan oil with a dash of salt. “Toast them until you can smell the lovely, toasty pecan smell,” she says, “and then toss them on salads, in yogurt, in cereal or sprinkled on vegetables. Or just eat them fresh off the tree!”