Wednesday, November 08, 2006

2:01 pm | N.C. pecan growers shelled by small crop
The Fayetteville Observer
Pecans might be a little pricier this year. Farmers in the region say not only has it an off year, but it's been an off-off year.

In Sampson County, Carla Peterson decided not to post her bright pink open-for-business sign. Her farm, Twiddle Dee, didn't yield enough pecans this year to make it worth her time. And if the poor harvest wasn't enough, her garden has suffered almost as much.

"Last year, I was open practically every Saturday," Peterson said. "There was too much damage from Ernesto to the garden. Last year was a bumper crop. This year's not bearing any."

She does have a small trailer of last year's pecans still in the shell that she's willing to give away. After a freezer full, she's run out of storage space.

Like Peterson, Laurie Wood's freezer is capped with nuts. Wood is a marketing specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

"North Carolina's season starts having pecans from late October, early November," Wood said. "But you can still get fresh ones through December."

Since she works for the state, she's in contact with growers regularly. She says she believes the overall harvest is down but is unsure how it will affect grocery store prices.

"Most of what you buy in the store are from last year," Wood said. "I actually think they'll be up because of storms last year in Georgia, Alabama and Florida causing damage."

North Carolina produces 3 million to 5 million pounds of pecans each year. A well-managed farm should yield between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds per acre when the orchard reaches 20 years old, according to the state agriculture department.

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