A highly regarded Blount County cattleman was posthumously granted the Pioneer Award last month at the Alabama Agriculture Hall of Honor Banquet, held at the Auburn University Heritage Park.
While the award centered on Ross Debter’s success as an egg producer, he and son Glynn gained fame for their Hereford beef cattle, their Hereford farm at Horton noted for volume production of outstanding seedstock, among other successes. Both men have received numerous awards and much recognition for their progressive and innovative operations.
The following is taken directly from the banquet program booklet:
Ross Debter lived his entire life within 150 yards of his birthplace on the family farm
in Horton, Alabama. As number 13 in a family of 15 children, Debter’s genuine smile
and ability to be agreeable in all things helped as he worked on the farm and finetuned
his entrepreneurial skills. By age 12, he was buying eggs, butter, and fresh vegetables
from local farmers and marketing them to area grocery stores.
Through the years, Debter focused on opportunities to supply metropolitan customers
with fresher produce than they were currently buying. By 1942, Debter had figured out a
way to complete the farm-to-market-to-farm circuit by purchasing feed in Birmingham
and reselling it to farmers in his area. He worked with local egg producers to finance the
feed they needed until their hens started producing eggs. In addition, he would buy their
roosters to sell as fryers. During the boom times in the 1980s, Debter was using refrigerated
trucks bearing his name and delivering 2.5 million eggs every week.
The Debter family, like most other farmers, diversified their operations. Debter
Hereford Farm was founded in 1948 with 75 head of beef cattle.
Debter’s quality-first approach ensured a stable customer base from producer to consumer.
He installed the first egg cooler in north Alabama in 1954 followed soon after by his
first egg grader. Debter and his crews were collecting from their own 12,000 layers four to
five times a day to preserve quality and, in 1971, Debter set up the first modern egg production
complex in his area with four houses and more than 200,000 hens.
Active in the Alabama Poultry & Egg Association and the National Egg Company,
Debter served on boards and numerous committees within the poultry industry. In
support of Alabama producers, Debter was instrumental in working on the passage of
state legislation to ensure better eggs for consumers and a fairer market for growers.
In recognition of his dedication to the industry, Debter was inducted into the
Alabama Poultry Hall of Fame in 1980.
Ross Debter died in 2001 at age 89. He was preceded in death by his wife, Eva J.
Debter, and is survived by a son, Glynn Debter; daughter, Ann Tidwell; and five grandchildren
and 11 great-grandchildren.