By Andy Sherrod, Orchard Manager
Over the past thirty years, I have discovered that almost everyone who has grown up in the South has a fond childhood memory or two of pecans. More often than not these fond memories involve a grandparent.
I'm no exception. For many years my family spent Christmas with my grandparents in Oklahoma. I must have been six or seven years old when I first went with my grandfather to a nearby pecan orchard to “pick on the halves.” I had no idea what that meant but it didn’t matter. I was eager just to be outside.
My grandmother prepared a thermos of hot cocoa, “to keep you warm,” she said as she zipped up my coat. In short order, my grandfather parked the car in a grove of majestic pecan trees with limbs devoid of leaves but peppered with hundreds of ripe pecans.
He'd thrash the limbs with a Calcutta cane pole and I’d scurry around on my hands and knees picking up the fallen nuts and putting them into a burlap bag. I distinctly remember my hands turning numb from the frigid dew that lingered.
We worked until we filled two huge burlap bags. My grandfather deemed that two were sufficient, so he loaded them into the trunk of his car and together we drove up the hill to a wooden barn. My heart sank when I learned what “picking on the halves” entailed. We left half of our hard work, one entire bag, inside the barn for the owner of the pecan grove. Nevertheless, my grandmother seemed thrilled to see the one bag that we did bring home, and I felt satisfied.
Decades later I’m still picking pecans. The Calcutta cane poles and burlap bags have given way to mechanical tree shakers and polypropylene super sacks, but I’m still satisfied to see those pecans coming into our barn, a whole years’ worth of effort safely stored.
October is a wonderful month to experience the farm for yourself. Join one of the orchard tours we offer every Saturday at 12:30. Listen as your tour guide explains highlights from the growing season and the detailed process of harvest. You might even get to see a tree shaker at work. It’s a lot more exciting to watch than a Calcutta cane pole.