2023 Champion Award Winner


Celebrating 75 Years of Generosity

Sunnyland Farms and its CEO Alex Willson were nominated and selected by fellow Georgia business leaders as a goBeyondProfit Champion for their comprehensive, generational approach to generosity. This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Sunnyland Farms, a 1,760-acre pecan farm and manufacturing company based in Albany, Georgia.

“From the earliest days we have tried to play our small part in helping the greater community that is southwest Georgia,” says Alex Willson. “Where there’s a need, we try to help fill it.” They have invested deeply in Southwest Georgia, providing quality jobs to generations of families as well as offering support to the local non-profits serving the needs of the community.

Excerpts taken from the interview with Alex Willson, CEO, Sunnyland Farms

Decades Long Commitment to People

Sunnyland Farms has been an institution in Albany for 73 years of our 75 years. We started in Atlanta, and as the company grew, we focused not only on turning a profit, but providing more quality jobs and making sure we give back to the community in various ways. When my grandparents moved here, one of the number one things that they said they wanted to do was to give back to their community. They wanted to put down roots and they did that through the farm. From the earliest days we have tried to play our small part in helping the greater community that is southwest Georgia. Where there’s a need, we try to help fill it.

Commitment to Employees

Sunnyland’s commitment is to its people, 100%. Always has been, always will be. I think for any organization, employees are obviously the most critical thing you have. It’s your human capital. It is what allows you to do what you do. And I think most of our employees would say they have a vested interest in the company, because as a company, we try to make sure we have a vested interest in them – both here at work, but also outside of their job as well.

Implementing the Request for Flexibility in Manufacturing

We asked our managers for their input on how to solve the request for flexibility. We started by asking questions, trying to find out what people really want and need. Our work can be seasonal with a high concentration of time in the fall. We challenged ourselves to figure out how we can give our employees time back with their families during the rest of the year.

We started with the idea of summer hours. A lot of offices do summer hours, so we offered our teams the option of a 36-hour work week. But they didn’t like that solution because they know what it takes to get the job done and they were concerned about the impact on the production lines. So we all decided we would simply start by trying a modified 40-hour schedule working slightly longer for four days and getting off at noon on Fridays. As a result, since 2022, everybody gets a three-day weekend every single week for about four to five months out of the year. It’s been hugely successful. Together we figured out a way for people to stretch their time. Now, they can go on long weekend vacations without having to burn PTO.

Is Generosity a Fad or Essential to Business?

I don’t really think it’s a fad. I feel like if you’re not being generous, it’s going to be tougher for you to get employees because I think employees aren’t solely interested in pay.

Everybody wants to make money, but everybody also wants to feel part of something. That’s the biggest issue that we’ve seen. If people don’t buy into what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what you pay. They need to feel like they’re part of something.

I don’t think generosity is going to be a fad, I think it’s going to be here to stay.

Current & Previous Winners