By Andy Sherrod, Orchard Manager
Occasionally I deviate from the usual “here’s what we're doing on the farm” and tell you a little bit about the fun stuff, like the fun toys we get to operate.
Here in the Brazos River bottom we're surrounded by thousands of acres of cotton, corn, and an occasional planting of soy beans. There are a few small plots of pecans nearby, but Royalty Pecan Farm is the largest single planting of pecans in this area with 500 acres and 15,000 trees, and the equipment we use to do our job can be ... well, different.
During harvest season the star of the harvest show is our tree shaker. On rare occasions, folks who take our 12:30 Saturday tours can see the shaker at work, and it is indeed a sight to see. But an even more impressive machine is the hedger.
Last month I talked about tree hedging and the reason the practice is so important to our success. Since we're still involved in the hedging process this month, I thought you might like to see the machine in action (scroll to the bottom of this page to see a video).
The hedger is a specialized piece of equipment. It's so specialized that one could not simply go out and buy one. This hedger is custom made by the pioneer of pecan tree hedging Mr. Melvin Duncan of Ft. Stockton, Texas.
I first met Mr. Duncan right after I graduated from Texas A&M in 1982. He was custom hedging a farm in central Texas with a machine he designed himself, a Galion crane fitted with a specialized cutting structure he designed. Fast forward to thirty years later. Mr. Duncan retired from his custom hedging business and sold his two remaining hedging machines. We bought one of them.
We sent one of our employees out to Ft. Stockton for a week of what one might call “hedging school.” He worked with Mr. Duncan disassembling the machine from top to bottom then reassembling it and preparing it for another season. Ever since then, this employee has served as our hedger operator.
Though you may not get a chance to actually see this piece of equipment in operation yourself in our orchard, I hope you enjoy this brief video of our amazing hedger: