The most common question we receive is, “How’s it done?” Which really means, “How do you pick up millions of individual pecans?” Thankfully, pecan farmers no longer need to use cane poles to knock the nuts down, only to then pick them up off the ground. In today’s orchards, we start by using a mechanical shaker to remove the nuts from the tree. After the nuts fall, a tractor with a blower on the back and a sweeper on the front moves down each row, gathering the pecans (and lots of other debris) into neat rows. Next, a harvester runs over the rows, where belts lift the pecans into a wagon.
After the pecans are removed from the orchard, they are dumped into a large pit. From the pit they run through something called a cleaning plant, a group of individual pieces of equipment that removes the dirt, leaves, bad pecans, rocks and sticks. From the cleaning plant, they fall into another wagon... while in this wagon they are dried, lowering the moisture level to about 5%. Removing the moisture helps to preserve the pecans and makes them easier to shell.
Once dried, the pecans enter another pit, go up an elevator, falling onto a “picking table” where any debris or bad pecans are removed by hand. The pecans that make it across the table are then lifted into another machine that separates them by size. Finally, they fall into large “super sacks,” where they remain until delivered to the sheller. All of this work and equipment, remarkably, is the easy part – caring for the pecans from a flower to a ripened nut is the fun and challenging part! Take a look at the photos and feel free to email with questions.
LIFE IN THE ORCHARD
One of the best parts about farming is interacting with the land. In the orchard, there are a surprisingly large number of species of animals. When we mow, for example, we’re likely to see fox squirrels watching us from the 50 year old pecan trees and Mississippi Kites flying above the tractor trying to snag grasshoppers. Nearly all year long, Canadian Geese keep us company on the four ponds, where they’re joined by several species of ducks in the fall and winter months. Herons and Killdeer live on the edges of the ponds, sharing space with large Snapping Turtles. Some say that farming must be a lonely job, but all we need to do is look around and there’s life everywhere.
We work hard, there’s no doubt about that. But, there is down time on a farm and we take advantage of our free time by fishing in the ponds, swimming, kayaking, or even throwing horse shoes. Farming is deliberate work that takes a wide variety of knowledge and skills. Our incredibly talented and dedicated farm manager, Billy, knows what needs to be done and sometimes that means casting a fly to lure a bream or bass. Our family and employees know that the gifts from the farm include far more than what we harvest.