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 fine-tuned 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 eleven great grandchildren.