Pecan farmers work hard to provide freshly harvested and top-quality pecans to the nation. Harvesting pecans is not a simple task to do. There is a lot of care involved in developing a pecan orchard and preparing it for the harvesting season every year.
The majority of pecan farmers today are a part of fourth or fifth generation pecan growers. They have grown up in pecan farms and were taught the necessary skills and work by their grandparents and parents who have started growing pecans in family farms. Pecan farmers not only grow pecans but also sell them to food and baking industries, retails shops, or directly to their customers.
How do Pecan Farmers do Their Work
Before harvesting pecans, the farmers irrigate their land and plant new trees. There are different factors that determine the maturity of pecan trees. Some trees mature at most 10 years and are ready to give fruits. But most farmers provide the best conditions for their tree so that it becomes tall enough at the age of six or seven.
Prep for harvest
From providing gallons of water, to the right type of soil and taking care of the temperature, pecan trees require a lot of effort to grow into tall nut-bearing trees. The work for harvest begins in April. They spread the fertilizers, and plow the lands with machines. They have to take care of their trees so that they do not get damaged from insects and pests.
End of the harvest
Finally comes October, which is as festive as Christmas for pecan farmers. Farmers get to see the fruits of their labor at the end of the season. They have to take care to keep the squirrels away from pecan trees.
Pecan nuts grow in the canopy of tall trees. The nuts are light-weight and can fall off the tree by shaking the tree. Farmers use a tractor with padded shakers, which they drive throughout their land. They shake each tree one by one and so the padded shaker gently shakes the tree for few seconds and all the pecans fall down on the ground. The tractor picks up the pecans and shovels away twigs, leaves and debris.
Different farms have different types of machinery for cleaning, screening, and processing pecans. Some farms are equipped with high-tech machinery. Nonetheless, the overall process of cleaning and processing is similar.
Pecans are put on a conveyor belt where they are separated for distribution and other purposes. The pecans in-shell are passed through cleaners and grits to remove any remaining sticks and orchard debris. Many pecan companies have machinery through which the pecans pass and are separated on the basis of their color. Then for the last inspection, expert farmers screen through the nuts to remove any nut that is bad or is too thin that has passed from the machines.
Nuts are put to cleaning. Then they are put on a conveyor, where a vacuum of natural gas gently dries the pecans. The pecans, placed in sacks according to size. The smaller pecans are put away either to give to bakeries or to be used in making pralines, cookies, and other sweets.
Pecan farmers work very hard or not to stay in business. One of their biggest challenges is to acquire land to rent or purchase. Things get very hard for them when there is a water shortage or drought conditions before the harvest season.