Patience pays off for Paton
MICHELLE Chicken and husband Boyd Paton are hard into the harvest of their biggest crop ever and with the trees growing bigger each year, the only way now is up.
However, pecan production isn’t for everyone as a lot of patience is required.
“It’s a long wait with trees taking up to five years to start to bear and seven to eight years for a commercially viable tree,” Mr Paton said.
“However, the long-term benefits are great with some orchard planting in Australia having trees over 60 years old and up to 100 years old in the US where the industry is far older and well established.”
When the nuts are ready to harvest, the outside skin of the fruit peels off leaving the bare nut still on the tree.
Mrs Chicken said the 2015 pecan season harvest was now well underway and she expected somewhere around 70 tonnes of nuts.
“We usually start the same weekend as Anzac Day each year,” she said.
“The nut harvesting is done mechanically in the orchard with nuts shaken from the tree with a shaker on the back of our tractor and then swept into wind-rows.
“Then collected from the orchard floor with the nut harvester.
“Nuts are then sorted and graded on farm before either sending away direct to our main buyer or processing ourselves for our own direct buyers.”
Due to the mechanical harvesting of nuts, the crop requires a minimal workforce during the season which lasts for up to eight to 10 weeks.
This year, five people are employed to help with harvesting and sorting.
Mr Paton said most of their employees were from the area and they were really happy to be able to provide employment to the town.
“Our employees play a major part in the season for us,” he said.
HARVEST TIME: When the pecan trees are shaken the tractor is almost covered with leaves and nuts.