Bob Kussman would stand at the bottom of the steps with his early morning wake-up call to seven sleepyheads upstairs. He believed that hard work was the only way to harvest the fruits of labor. As the kids got up, Bob and Jackie would start their morning on the front porch swing with a cup of coffee, while planning the next steps for Kussman Farms.
In 1967, Bob was a cattle buyer for the Kansas City Stockyards, but his real dream was to return home to his childhood community. He and Jackie packed up their home and moved five children to Chariton County, Missouri. Over the years, they purchased several pieces of land in the county, including acreage atop King Hill, where the family built a sprawling cabin, log-by-log from trees cut from their own woods. In all, they brought seven children into the world, cultivating in them a strong work ethic and love of the land.
Kussman Farms has nurtured native and grafted nut groves near Brunswick, The Pecan Capital of Missouri. In the 1970’s, the children harvested each fall by handpicking pecans from the ground after Bob shook the trees. By the time Joe and Kate were teenagers in 1983, they progressed a vision of the business by investing in pecan pickers and a cleaner. As young entrepreneurs, they established a small retail outlet and marketed fresh Northern pecans to regional grocery stores.
At the same time, Bob was inspired by a long-term vision whose outcome he would never fully witness; he and Jackie dedicated the rest of his life through 2014 to leave a legacy of one-of-a-kind orchards to their family. They first planted the pastures and the cropland - previously farmed in tobacco - with a healthier crop: Missouri Northern native pecans.
Then Bob actualized his dream to graft specialty pecans. He learned the art and studied closely with University of Missouri Agroforestry and extension experts to hone his skills. He collaborated frequently with researchers, including Dr. William Reid of Chetopa, KS, a Kansas State University pecan research and extension specialist and a leading authority on Northern pecans. He also hosted educational opportunities for other farmers at the orchards in Chariton County.
With Dr. Robert Kremer of University of Missouri's Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research Unit, he partnered on longitudinal research on the effect of kura clover on soil quality in pecan orchard ecosystems. Dr. Kremer's work was presented at numerous conferences.
Family means everything, and each member brings a special talent to the table. Our upbringing taught us that success comes from working together with assistance from above. We celebrate our roots and remain committed stewards of the land.
The secret to the good life is finding what makes you happy, then doing it on purpose and with purpose. Working hard with humility builds character. If you start something, do it right, and don’t give up til it’s done.
Constantly reinventing a farming operation isn’t just necessary, it's essential. We explore the How, Why and When and shift a matter of degrees to ensure our business and our brand are constantly evolving.
Doing things the way they’ve always been done is not an option. We use our knowledge and experience to continually innovate. In our family business, the best innovations come from discussions where we promised not to talk about work – usually around the kitchen table.