the way he viewed it three decades ago when he decided to raise Chiangus
by blending the genetics of Chianina and Angus to produce a black
composite breed, it is gaining in popularity across the U.S. The breed
combines lean beef cattle from Italy with American Angus stock.
Chi, as they are called, with Angus, has allowed breeders to develop a
female that is ideal in all aspects of production. Chiangus females are
tolerant to environmental extremes. They are also fertile, functional
Ellis family owns and operates about 3,000 acres of prime farmland in
Lowndes County. Chiangus cattle represent a major investment and Ned
didn’t hesitate to begin raising them after studying their potential.
bought our first Chiangus cattle in 1972," he said. "We’re
crazy about ’em, too. They are a good breed. They grow fast and
produce good meat. They grow to an average of about 1,200 pounds."
tabs on beef prices is part of his daily practices at the bank when he’s
not out on the farm. He keeps a tiny text message device with him to see
if meat prices are up or down.
about 500 mother cows and 200 registered Chiangus cattle, the Ellis
operation is one of the most successful in the state. The breed hasn’t
completely caught on with the majority of Alabama cattlemen, but Ellis
is happy with his operation that today is run by his daughter and
a pioneer in developing the Chiangus breed in America, Ellis has gained
quite a reputation around the country.
Klippenstein, chief executive officer of the American Chianina
Association, not only praises Ellis’ ability to raise cattle, he also
admires Ellis’ personal attributes.
Circle E cattle are consistently among the most profitable in feed yards
because of their rapid efficient growth, high percentage grades, higher
dressing percent and heavier carcasses," he said.
said Ellis has an "innate ability to see things the way they really
are and what they should and could be.
patience, energy, passion and good will have been a real boost to the
cattle industry, to the land and rural America and to superior Chiangus
cattle," Klippenstein said.
Ellis’s commitment to his county, state and nation, Klippenstein said
America is fortunate to have a man with so many leadership skills.
have many good men, intelligent men, humble men, influential men,
talented men, caring men, futuristic men, courageous men, patriotic men
and family men," the ACA leader said. "In the case of Ned
Ellis, we have a man that has it all."
is a good word to describe Ellis, a man who expanded Priester’s Pecans
from a small town operation into something with a national name.
basis for the Priester’s project was Interstate 65 that extends from
Mobile Bay to the Great Lakes. Back in the 1960s, nobody was quite sure
what impact it might have on farming and industry, especially in rural
states such as Alabama.
the mid-1960s the interstate had begun to take shape in the state. By
that time, Ellis already had a degree in agricultural science from
Auburn University, finished a stint as an Army officer and was helping
his father, Hense, on the family farm in Lowndes County.
cattle and cotton had been the Ellis family’s major sources of
agricultural revenue in that era, but, when Hense Ellis and L.C.
Priester launched a pecan business in 1935, it was the first step toward
something that would have an impact far beyond the borders of Alabama.
the deaths of his dad and the man whose name graces the company’s
signs, Ellis—who had joined the company in 1965—became president and
began moving toward the future.
Pecans had a shelling operation and a candy shop in Fort Deposit, but
U.S. 31 soon bypassed the town of 1,240. It wasn’t long before the
candy shop was closed and the company bought a building along the
interstate that, by that time, had bypassed U.S. 31.
building had been used as part of a modular home business," Ellis
recalled. "I just had a feel that it would be a good opportunity
for our company to open a retail shop in that location."
retail business quickly prospered until 1996 when an electrical fire
destroyed it. Ellis’s son, Thomas, and daughter, Ellen Burkett, who
had assumed operation of the business from their father, quickly built a
Priester’s Pecans is one of America’s most popular confectionary
businesses with a wide variety of items mailed throughout the country.
It has a flourishing catalog business and is a "must-stop"
spot for thousands of people heading to or from the Gulf Coast.
Day is one of February’s most popular days and Priester’s Pecans
sells plenty of candy to satisfy folks with sweet teeth. It may not rank
with the last month of the year, but it provides a boost for Priester’s
business during the second month of every new year.
the pecan business in good hands, Ellis had even more time to focus on
the First Lowndes Bank which he helped to create in 1984.
and other community leaders pitched in help raise $1.5 million to launch
the bank. Today, assets top $150 million.
became president and chief executive officer a few years ago and now
spends much of his time at the bank—when he’s not bouncing around in
his Dodge Ram pickup to check on his cattle.
addition to approving loans to local families and businesses, the bank
also played a part in luring a Hyundai Motor Co. first tier supplier to
Lowndes County. The plant makes exhaust systems for Hyundai.
was keen among small towns that border Montgomery County where Hyundai
opened its $1 billion facility a year ago. First Lowndes Bank was an
important cog in the drive to land a plant which local leaders hope will
have a positive economic impact in the area.
a customer-friendly community bank with branches in Hayneville, Highland
Home and Greenville as well as Fort Deposit," said Ellis, as he
stopped for a second to field a phone call from a customer. "I
think that is what has made us so successful."
all small community banks, First Lowndes focuses on the small picture
and doesn’t worry about huge banking operations in bigger towns.
of its newspaper ads proclaims that it is "owned and operated by
local people that do business with you, go to church with you and whose
kids play with your kids."
been Ellis’s guiding business principle—whether it involves cattle,
cotton, pecans or banking.
father taught us to be honest and give an honest day’s work," his
son, Thomas, said. "We learned not to be afraid to try something
new. His view on things is to ‘do your best and