Growing up in Northern Virginia just outside Washington DC, Bill was just not a city-boy. His father grew up on a farm in North Carolina but wanted nothing more to do with farming. Summer vacation visits to the family relatives still operating farms were a much anticipated event. Those farming genes must have been passed on to Bill who would figure out ways to use his toys to play in the dirt. A small vegetable garden was a new obsession when a neighbor with a rototiller broke ground and the daily watering ritual became an enjoyable task watching plants develop from seeds into edible produce.
Working for a large engineering firm as what you might call a entry level engineer, Bill was assigned to the jobsites as an inspector to monitor construction to assure spec compliance. The construction office/storage compound on one of his larger projects became home to a couple of chickens, compliments of Bill. They were a pair of hand raised buff-sex-link roosters that took ownership of the compound and became pets of the workers. One of the workers got so attached that at the end of the project the worker took both the roosters home and kept them as pets. It was on that project Bill met an electrician who was trying to sell an overgrown 40 acre farm with a collapsed house and Bill bought it. The intent was to raise commercial chickens but the location was too far from any of the packing houses to service. This land ended up as a timber tract and proceeds from the first timber harvest was enough to purchase his first tractor, which he kept in his driveway just 3 miles outside of Washington DC. Neighbors laughed at him for buying a tractor until the first major snowstorm when he cleared the street and everyone’s driveway while the rest of the city was crippled by drifted snow. After that all the neighbors loved the tractor and were sad to see it loaded on the trailer when we moved to Alabama. “Most” of the neighbors thought the small livestock collection in the back yard was a fun break from the monotony of city living but the county officials was not so amused. More reason to move to a real farm.
Bill likes to eat and learned to cook, specifically candy and pastries which was another passion that developed over the years. Bill got licensed as an electrical contractor and ran a contracting business on evenings and weekends. He did a lot of work in restaurants and bakeries where he made friends with the owners and chefs. They encouraged him to pursue his cooking hobby on a larger scale. They showed him techniques and introduced him to the world of commercial food service and trade shows. Bill learned how to make art out of chocolate and entered several competitions but could not compete with the skills of culinary institute trained confectionary chefs.
When Bill retired from his engineering career everything finally came together. Bill and his wife bought and rehabilitated a dilapidated pecan orchard in the Black Belt region of Alabama, built a licensed commercial kitchen and started making pecan candies and treats from the nuts harvested in the orchard. A local pecan farmer took Bill under his wing and helped Flying Basset Farm get started in growing pecans. Church pot-luck dinners always had some dish made using our pecans and our church became the primary taste testers for our pecan candies and pastries and provided feedback allowing us to develop and refine our product line for taste rather than economic efficiency.
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