FOUR YEARS of preliminary work by three pecan growers and the county agent resulted in the organization of the DeWitt County Pecan Growers Association in 1963. The growers were John Braden, Sr. and John Braden, Jr., a father-son partnership, and John J. Chilek.
In late 1959, during a farm visit, the county agent and the Bradens discussed the potential of pecans in DeWitt County. Pecan timber occupied some 22,000 acres, of which less than 3,000 were development of an industry that would provide jobs during harvest season for a number of low-income families.
The discussion ended with a decision that pecan work should be intensified in the county. The agent and growers agreed that they would "talk up” pecans and their potential. The Bradens and Chilek helped compile a pecan mailing list. A newsletter devoted to pecans was started and news articles were prepared for mass media outlets. Field days and tours were planned. Interest in budding and grafting pecans was noted and the first field day was planned to feature the propagation subject. Texas Agricultural Extension Service specialists were asked to assist with the field day activities.
Budding and Grafting Practiced
In the spring of 1960, this program was held in the Braden bottom at Hoch-heim, with 65 persons participating. Each one present had the opportunity of practicing budding and grafting techniques. The group that day decided that the next educational program should be a tour to a pecan bottom that had been developed.
That fall, the tour attracted 26 growers. The following spring another budding and grafting field day was held and the attendance totaled 86. John Chilek began helping the others learn how to bud and graft pecans. The following year, he had become so skilled in the propagation technique that a specialist was not called in.
The 1961 fall tour attracted 37 producers. At this time a committee was appointed to plan pecan work for the county and to further stimulate interest in the crop. Six persons were named to the committee. At its initial meeting, in
September of 1962, officers were elected and the members pinpointed pecan production problems.
At a second committee meeting in November, plans were developed for a sprayer demonstration in the spring, since interest had increased in the control of the nut case bearer and rosette. In addition, a rosette and nut case bearer control demonstration was planned, along with a tour to be held in June to observe results.
Members at this meeting felt that talk should begin in terms of forming an organization to stimulate interest in not only pecan production, but marketing and utilization as well. Talks with producers in the county showed that reactions were favorable toward a county organization.
Date Set, to Organize
During the sprayer demonstration, the senior Braden and Chilek discussed the possibility of an organization with 62 people attending. The pecan committee was asked to set a date for the organizational meeting.
About this time, surveying and talk on a proposed dam at Cuero was begun by the Guadalup-Blanco River Authority. This proposed dam would flood some 30,000 acres of land in DeWitt County, including about 12,000 acres of pecans. In the second stage, an addition to the dam would flood about the same number of acres, including the Sandies Creek bottom with about 5,000 acres of pecans. We mention this here because the proposed action speeded up the organizational process of the county association.
An organizational meeting was held with 23 persons attending. John Braden, Jr. chairman of the pecan committee presided. He and Chilek again explained the purposes and benefits of such an organization. The attending growers voted to organize and officers were elected. Four committees were set up and officers and committee chairman were instructed to appoint other members to serve on the finance, bylaws, tours and field day, and pecan show committees.
Annual dues were set at$1. The original pecan committee, set up the previous fall, felt that the officers would serve as the pecan committee, and thereby result in a rotation of members according to the bylaws. Committees were appointed and began immediately to carry out their duties. Membership the first year reached 26.Pecan work included result demonstration on nut case bearer control and rosette control, tours to demonstrations, and the first annual pecan show.
Varied Activities Planned
A variety of activities has been planned each year so that people interested in pecans, both members and nonmembers, will remain interested. Membership at the end of 1966 was 126, higher than any previous year. Each year, membership has increased with very few failing to rejoin each year.
The annual meeting climate the 1966 year with a barbecue for members and their families. Attendance numbered 160.
From the Extension agent's point of view, this association has been very successful. There are some 5,009 acres of pecans sprayed each year, compared to none in 1963. Yield has increased in response to improved management. An additional 3,000 acres have been cleared and thinned.
Membership increases yearly and the number of entries in the annual pecan show are larger each year. John Braden, Jr. currently serves as director of the Texas Pecan Growers Association. Businessmen in the town recognize the value of the pecan industry to the economy. This is evidenced by a quote in the local newspaper by a businessman during the Christmas shopping season last year: “Business is better than it has been in many years. I feel this is due, in part, to the pecan industry in our area."
Most important is the fact that producers talk about “our” organization and what "we" have done to improve the situation. They have assumed active leadership roles and feel confident that they can do the job.