Plenty of pecans should be available to grace dinner and dessert tables this holiday season as Alabama farmers anticipate a good harvest.
Alabama Farmers Federation State Horticulture Committee Chairman Joe Adams said dry weather delayed pecan harvest about two weeks at his Bullock County farm. However, he’s optimistic there will still be a good crop.
“On Oct. 1, we were about four inches short on rain,” Adams said. “That will affect the size of the pecan nut. I expect we’ll be about 10 percent under an average year in crop quality and quantity, but it’ll still be a good year for pecans in Alabama.”
Adams has been in the pecan business for more than five decades. He and his wife of 56 years, Mary Claire, moved to their farm just a few miles from the Chunnennuggee Ridge in 1960. He now has about 120 acres of pecan trees and manages another 75 acres.
“Mary Claire and I have worked hard to do what we’ve done,” Adams said. “I can remember pecans selling for just a nickel (a pound), and now they’re above $1. We’ve been successful in the pecan business and usually made decent crops.”
In 1977, Adams and his brothers built the first pecan cleaning plant in the area, and at one time they ran nearly 50,000 pounds of pecans through daily.
“The plant is still there and running, but now we pretty much just use it for our crop,” he said. “There used to be a lot more pecan orchards around here, but now we’re down to maybe four or five commercial growers in the county.”
Farther south in Mobile County, farmer Ken Buck said this is a great time to be in the pecan business.
“Demand right now is tremendous,” said Buck, who sells about 50 percent of his pecan crop through a retail store on his farm in Bayou La Batre. “I’m not sure what the cause is, but the walk-in trade at the farm is by far better than we’ve ever had before.”
The store at Ken Buck Farms will be open through Christmas. Buyers can choose from around 13 different varieties Buck grows on 65 acres and they can have them cracked or shelled at the store.
Buck said he expects to see a larger harvest this year.
“Last year, the weather didn’t cooperate at all; it was so dry,” he said. “Our production for 2014 should be a little more than twice what we did last year. We’ve been fortunate. We’ll have a good crop and prices are stable now, even up somewhat.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts a national pecan crop of 275.6 million in-shell pounds. That’s slightly more than 266.3 million pounds produced in 2013.
While that’s good news for consumers who enjoy a slice of pecan pie at Christmas celebrations, Adams said there’s lots of good ways to prepare the nuts.
“It doesn’t really make any difference to me how you serve pecans, I just really like to eat them,” he said.