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Let’s Eat, Mississippi: Heaton...

Let’s Eat, Mississippi: Heaton Pecans and Foundation in a nutshell

By: Laura Lee Leathers - May 2, 2024

  • You will find the family-run business Heaton Pecans in the heart of Lyon in the Mississippi Delta.

As a newly married military couple living in Germany, we anticipated our first Thanksgiving. My husband’s grandmother, Nanny, sent us a gift box of pecans and her pecan pie recipe. She told me to be sure and make a pecan pie for the holiday dinner.

Well, this northern girl had never eaten a morsel of pecan pie. Oh, my goodness, I had no idea I was missing such a delectable dessert.

While Nanny was still living, our family could count on her to bake at least two pecan pies for the gatherings. She enjoyed shelling the pecans in the evening while she watched her favorite television programs.

When she grew older, her pecan pie had some issues. Pieces of the shell would be found, and we wondered if she had forgotten some of the ingredients. Sometimes, the grandchildren were seen burying their pieces of pie in a flower bed.

However, this is not what you will encounter when you purchase a premium, high-quality pecan pie or other pecan products from Heaton Pecans.

A Generational Pecan Orchard

You will find the family-run business Heaton Pecans in the heart of Lyon in the Mississippi Delta.  They have been in operation there since 1975. The late Bill Heaton, around 1961, planted the first orchard of pecan trees. He was known for his expertise in the pecan industry.

His son, William Cliff Heaton, Sr. (Cliff), and his wife, Chris, continued the business. Cliff, Sr. credits Chris with taking the company to the next level. She had the vision to expand the business to include pecan gift packages. The next phase was a catalog and mail order business. Then came the move to the internet, but the couple dealt with tech challenges. Progress was slow.

That is until their daughter, Cadey Heaton True, stepped in. Cadey had no intentions of returning to Lyon after graduating from Ole Miss (2011). She did return, however, and married, and around seven years ago. Cliff Sr. asked her to consider working with Heaton Pecans. She did, putting her marketing degree and skills to work, increasing the traffic on the internet. You can visit their website here.

Cadey learned the business by working under the manager for four years before she assumed the managerial position. The responsibility produces some long, rewarding days, especially during the harvest and the holiday seasons.

Even though Cliff Sr. has backed away from the day-to-day pecan operation, Cadey stated she still seeks his wisdom and advice regarding significant decisions. He usually tells her he trusts her judgment. He stops by frequently and inquires about the sales. He still farms, overseeing over 10,000 acres of row crops and a cotton gin.

Ford True, Cadey’s husband, is also involved with harvesting the 200 acres of the pecan orchard. Throughout the year, the trees are tended, pruned, fertilized, and regularly checked for pests. Their three young children enjoy the farm life and are becoming great helpers.

“The focus of our business is based out of love and goes back to the foundation we created for our brother, who died a couple of years ago,” Cadey said.

The Heaton Foundation

At the heart of this business is the foundation established in memory of their son and brother, William Cliff Heaton, Jr. The family shares his story here.

He died from a drug overdose on April 29, 2017.

In an article published in the Delta Business Journal, February 12, 2024, written by Becky Gillette, Chris shared the following:

“We are a tight-knit, all-American family. Drugs affect people from every walk of life. Little Cliff was a great person; people really loved him. He just couldn’t fight it; he lost the battle. Drugs have just become a major problem in our country. It is overwhelming. There is a stigma with drug addiction, but it is a disease just like cancer. Our child did not want to be a drug addict. Little Cliff was a great guy. People loved him. We miss him a lot. A lot of people do. It is just sad he took that road, and his life ended that way.”

A year after his death, the foundation was created. Today, the entire family is involved in helping others in this battle. Initially, drug education programs began in Clarksdale. Then, Trey Lewis, who had also battled drug addiction and knew Cliff, opened Good Landing Recovery. The facility, located near Atlanta, Georgia, is a Christian-based alcohol and drug rehab center. Chris and Cliff Sr. spent a year there helping with the programs.

The proceeds and profits from Heaton Pecans fund the foundation. They have helped over 100 individuals go through the center.

Local and International Sales and Oprah’s Favorite Things

Cliff, Sr., and Chris’s daughter, Ann Granville Heaton, supervise the retail side of Heaton Pecans.

One of Ann’s responsibilities is maintaining the storefront at 15263 US-61, Lyon, from November 1 through December 26. Keeping the family tradition, the store is only open during these months.

Heaton Pecans products are sold in 30 to 40 stores throughout the south. In Oxford, visit Olive Juice Gifts and Oxford Floral, or the Mississippi Gift Company in Greenwood. Contact Heaton Pecans for a store in your area.

One of the remarkable behind-the-scenes stories is that Heaton Pecans was endorsed on Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things in 2021. The result was a growth. And they have been steadily growing every year. They now maintain a year-round shipping operation and hired a full-time shipping manager last year, primarily because of corporate orders. They ship internationally.

You can also order the merchandise from Amazon, Costco, and Sam’s Club. Cadey said they sold 800 pecan pies in just over six weeks. It just proves that pecan pie continues to be a family favorite. Their product line includes White Chocolate Pecans, Heaton Roasted and Salted Pecans, Heaton Praline Pecans, Heaton Chocolate Covered Pecans, and the three-way assorted gift tin is very popular. And let’s not forget the Heaton Pecan Pie.

The company’s motto is: “From grove to package, we take personal pride in providing superior pecans cultivated naturally right here in Mississippi.”

A Few Facts About the Pecan Industry

Did you know that the pecan tree is a species of the hickory? The pecan tree is native to the southern United States. Groves and businesses related to the pecan industry are found in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Arkansas.

According to the article “Good Agricultural Practices for Pecans in Mississippi” from the Mississippi Extension Service, “growers produce, harvest, and market two to four million pounds of pecans per year, including proved varieties and natives, from more than 14,000 acres.”

A farm can produce anywhere from 200 pounds to 1,000 pounds per acre. It depends upon the variety of trees, the management systems, pest control, and the weather. This could be anything from ice storms, drought, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Katrina and Camille destroyed or severely damaged orchards in six counties along the Gulf of Mexico.

Today’s farmers are planting more trees per acre to increase the production. The average production age starts when the pecan tree is around ten. They will continue to produce for up to seventy-five years. The old varieties like Stuart, a small pecan with a high oil content, and Desirable, a larger and easier-to-shell pecan, have produced well for the Heaton’s.

Check out the Heaton Pecans harvest video. It’s a fascinating operation involving a commercial shaker, a blower, a harvester, and a hopper. Once the pecans are gathered, the next steps include sorting, drying, shelling, and processing the products.


Regrettably, I can’t share their recipe because Heaton Pecans sells a pecan pie. However, I will share the one I use. It was given to me by Clara Presley—sorry, Nanny!

Pecan Pie

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 cup white corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 deep dish unbaked single pie crust

Beat eggs slightly, add sugar and salt, and stir till dissolved. Stir in Karo syrup and butter. Mix well. Stir in pecans. Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 50 minutes on the lower shelf.

Enjoy and share!

About the Author(s)
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Laura Lee Leathers

Laura Lee Leathers is a writer and speaker. Imagine Lois Lane, over sixty-five, and living on a farm. Her metropolis is the area of freelance writing. Her primary love interest is the Word of God. She digs for information, interviews fascinating people, offers a cup of biblical hospitalit-tea, encourages, and helps others with the ‘how-to’s’ of life.