Monday, August 20, 2007

Firm expands pecan operations to San Simon
TUCSON (AP) — A farming company that already has more than 100,000 pecan trees south of Tucson is now planting in eastern Cochise County, near the New Mexico state line.
Farmer’s Investment Co. is planting its next generation of trees on more than 2,700 acres it recently bought near the tiny community of Sam Simon, said Nan Stockholm Walden, the company’s vice president and general counsel.
The company, which owns The Green Valley Pecan Co., has already planted some 26,000 pecan trees on about 500 acres and will continue planting over the next five years, Walden said.
Dale Leiendecker, Cochise County assessor, said the land was purchased over the past two years in 31 parcels for just over $6.3 million. The company partly used proceeds from land it sold near Maricopa that was being closed in by development.
Walden said the new trees, which now resemble 2- to 3-foot sticks, painted white to protect against the elements, will take seven years to begin producing any significant amount of pecans. The company will truck the pecans to its plant in Sahuarita south of Tucson.
The company has operated farming or ranching operations in several areas of the state and also owns a warehouse in Las Cruces, N.M., and about 1,000 acres near Albany, Ga.
The acquisition of the land near San Simon is part of the company’s strategy to process more of its own nuts and less from other sources, Walden said. “The more we can grow on our own land, and process, the more competitive we are.”
About 60 percent of the pecans processed at the company’s plant in Sahuarita are grown on company land, and the rest come primarily from New Mexico, Texas and Mexico.
The Sahuarita plant processes about 8 million pounds of pecans a year and employs 240 workers.
The company farms more than 100,000 pecan trees on 6,000 acres along the Santa Cruz River in Sahuarita and Green Valley. The trees were planted mainly during the 1960s, but the company was established in 1948 by Keith Walden and is now operated by his son, Richard, who is married to Nan.
“We are agriculturalists,” she said, “and the third generation of our family and our workers are involved now in our operations.”

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