Muñoz rediscovers his agricultural roots at the University of Nebraska

by Chandra Spangler | IANR News

Carlos Munoz
As Carlos Muñoz prepares to turn his tassel, he reflects on how his involvements in the Engler Entrepreneurship Program, and his own business, Buffalo Creek Pecans, have been transformative during his time at the university.
May 11, 2022

Lincoln, Neb. — As a young ranch hand following the cowboys he looked up to around the feed yard in York, Nebraska, Carlos Muñoz knew he wanted to be in agriculture.

While his path to agriculture took a turn to sports his freshman year of college at Concordia University, Dennis Brink, Muñoz’s advisor and the professor of the only agriculture class at Concordia University at the time encouraged him to look at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program.

Muñoz became a Husker seeking an integrated science degree, eventually starting his own pecan business through the Engler program.

Muñoz’s pecan business, Buffalo Creek Pecans, has ties to his family’s immersion in agriculture and their Mexican heritage. His parents moved from Mexico to York, where they worked on a feedyard taking care of cattle, hauling livestock, and more. Once their children graduated high school, Muñoz’s parents decided to move back to their roots in Mexico. These Mexican roots inspired the name Buffalo Creek Pecans, as the family’s farm in Mexico is in a little village called Búfalo -- Spanish for buffalo. 

With his Nebraska ties to agriculture severed by the move, Muñoz still wanted to be a part of the industry, but did not have the funds to buy the farmland required to live out this dream. He found a way through Buffalo Creek Pecans, which he started in 2020 right before the first COVID-19 shutdown. He had tons of pecans shipped in from his family farm in Búfalo to begin getting his sales underway,  and sold directly to consumers at bakeries, restaurants and more. As COVID restrictions have loosened, he has been able to transition to bulk sales and sell to wholesalers, as well as personal customers.

Muñoz imports three to eight tons of pecans a year to the United States from Mexico. Here, he cracks, blows, and shells the pecans to get them ready to hit the shelves. The sales for the pecans operate through bulk selling as it’s easier for Muñoz and it helps him make more connections in the industry. These connections have been forged through the opportunities Muñoz has to travel the country attending pecan expos and conventions, tradeshows and more.

This has been nothing shy of a learning experience. “I think it taught me to believe in myself and that I can do more things that I think I can with having to learn all the financial stuff, marketing, and having meetings with big people,” said Muñoz.

As he prepared to graduate with the UNL class of 2022, Muñoz reflected on his heavy involvement in the Engler Entrepreneurship Program, through his leadership on the Culture Team and a teacher’s assistant for Engler 275, the $50 start-up business class. On the Culture Team, he played a part in planning events and hosting the bi-weekly Ascential 40 meetings, where guest speakers would attend to share their entrepreneurial idea and journey. As a teacher’s assistant, Muñoz and his partner mentored the students on their business ideas, hosting morning one-on-one coffee meetings with the businesses to ensure they were staying on track and gave them a space to get feedback on their ideas.

“I really did enjoy that, it made me some really good relationships with students like freshmen and sophomores, and it was a really good way to leave Engler,” Muñoz said.

After receiving his diploma, Muñoz will be taking on a new role as an ingredient merchandiser for Balance Forward Cattle in Omaha, Nebraska, while still working on Buffalo Creek Pecans. He is planning to continue working to integrate chiles and onions to his crop. In the long run, he hopes to run his business full-time in Texas or Oklahoma.

As his horizons have been broadened by the relationships he has formed during his time at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Muñoz encourages incoming students to “hang out with everybody” to broaden their own horizons and find who they are again, much like this cowboy did.