Agricultural products which had humble beginnings in San Angelo have evolved from niche markets to reach successful demand in faraway places.
The Mohair Council of America was established in the mid-1960s to promote a fleeting demand for the mohair fiber once popular because of Paris fashion designers’ use of the fabric in clothing.
The bulk of the nation’s mohair fiber is grown on Angora goats on the Edwards Plateau in Southwest Texas. The average Angora goat produces about 5.3 pounds of mohair every six months and is sheared twice a year.
The MCA began a comeback journey by broadening the range of products made of mohair, ranging from socks to saddle blankets. In more recent years, mohair floor coverings — including intricately woven area rugs — have evolved to reach national markets.
From Mohair Council of America headquarters at 233 W. Twohig Ave. in San Angelo, a historic old house in the downtown area, mohair products — including socks, throws, scarves, rugs and other items — are available for immediate purchase or for shipping. Mohair fabrics are also available on amazon.com, and mohair yarn can be bought on eBay.
Gary Speck is MCA president and Mary Hartgrove is the executive director.
Angelo State University meat science program
The Meat and Food Science program is a division of the Angelo State University Agriculture Department. The program is based in the Food Safety and Product Development Laboratory, which is located off campus and adjacent to the department’s Management, Instruction and Research Center at 7945 Grape Creek Road in rural northwest Tom Green County.
The Meat Market is open to the public and offers a variety of beef, pork, lamb and goat, plus a growing number of smoked and fully cooked items. The market is open during the regular semesters and summer terms. Usual hours of operation are noon to 5:30 p.m. Fridays.
In 1929, C.T. Ducote, Sr., and his son Curry came to San Angelo from Marksville, Louisiana, and opened a small café and general store on Chadbourne Street. Using a small coffee roaster they began roasting and packaging coffee in the back of the café.
Demand for the locally roasted coffee increased and the café was soon traded for full focus on coffee production. They established Red Triangle Coffee Brand. Their marketing slogan was “Red Triangle — Good from Every Angle.”
C.T. roasted and packaged the coffee and Curry distributed it to merchants in San Angelo and the surrounding towns.
In 1932 the company moved to East Avenue K and changed its name to Concho Coffee Company. In 1937 the company moved to a larger building at 616 S. Chadbourne St. West Texans had trouble pronouncing the Cajun-French surname Ducote, so the owners changed the name to DeCoty Coffee Company.
In 1963, DeCoty built a 38,000 square foot roasting, manufacturing and distribution center at 1920 Austin St. DeCoty developed alliances with many food manufacturers to pack food service products under DeCoty’s private label.
DeCoty Coffee Company has grown from a niche market to what it is now–the most diversified coffee roaster in the southwest.
Michael J. Agan is president and CEO.
Talk O’ Texas okra pickles
Dick and Mitzi Grimes originated the Talk O’ Texas Brands in their family kitchen in San Angelo in 1950. The company’s first major contract was signed with Neiman Marcus in Dallas.
Al Ricci purchased a minority interest in the small enterprise in 1955 as the niche marketing kept the company alive. When the Grimes family moved to Oklahoma, Ricci purchased remaining interest in 1956. Over the next 30 years, the company outgrew four production facilities under his guidance.
In 1985, Al’s son, Larry Ricci, who had grown up with the family’s pickle business, became president and chief executive officer. Larry researched the possibilities for improving the product.
By 1986, the company had moved into a new state of the art production facility covering 26,000 square feet at 1610 Roosevelt St., where it is still housed. The manufacturing plant has been expanded to 60,000 square feet. In 1988, Larry’s daughter, Lisa, joined Talk O’ Texas and is vice president.
Leading products include Crisp Okra Pickles and Liquid Hickory Smoke Flavor pickles. The Crisp Okra Pickles are hand-packed and are in demand nationwide. They can be purchased in grocery stores from coast to coast and are also offered in gift boxes and shipped by UPS anywhere in the Continental United States.
Sunflower farm near Rowena
The Jodi Busenlhener farm grows sunflowers near Rowena in Runnels County and Paint Rock in Concho County. Perhaps not a niche crop but certainly unique for the Concho Valley.
For several years, Jodi and Shawna Busenlhener have planted about 6,000 acres in sunflowers, producing two crops per year. They harvest for sunflower oil and birdseed.
A bit of inside knowledge from farmers: A sunflower is ready to harvest when the back portion of the head turns brown. The seeds mature earlier when the back of the sunflower turns yellow and the petals have fallen off. However, the head will be too wet for harvest by machines until the brown color appears.
Jerry Lackey is the agriculture editor emeritus of the San Angelo Standard-Times.