Bringing a Native Pecan Grove into Commercial Production
Two acres of agricultural land are lost each day in the United States due to encroaching subdivisions and nonagricultural development. According to the Cape Girardeau, MO County Director for the Farm Service Agency with the US Department of Agriculture there is also a significant loss of cropable land in Cape Girardeau County. One reason for Missourians to leave their small family farm is due to economic reasons.
In Southeast Missouri most farmers plant and harvest traditional crops such as corn, soybeans, and wheat. Our 210 acre farm is composed of primarily timber. Income from the harvest of timber is sporadic and occurs approximately every fifteen to twenty years. Annual income from the 25 tillable acres is from a rotation of soybeans, corn, and wheat. The soil is highly erodible with the soil type primarily being menfro silt loam with 14-30% slopes. This prohibits additional acres from being tilled. Goals of this proposal are to decrease soil erosion and to demonstrate alternative crop resources to area farmers as well as to remain a family farm.
To meet the goals listed above it is proposed that a stand of approximately 35 native pecan trees be cleared of brush and miscellaneous trees. These trees have already been marked by the Missouri Department of Conservation. The tree tops and brush will be utilized for wildlife habitat. The clearing will be completed by Teen Challenge Mid-America and supervised by a consulting forester.
To access the pecan grove, a culvert will need to be installed. A water tank should be purchased to assist with growth. In addition to developing production from the native pecan trees, it is proposed that forty grafted pecans (Kanza and Pawnee) be purchased and planted. These trees will bear in five to seven years according to Forrest Keeling Nursery in Elsberry, Missouri and Dr. William Reid of the Pecan Research Field at Kansas State University.
The opportunity to present educational programs to current and future farmers will be extended to the University of Missouri Extension office in Jackson, Missouri and to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Furthermore, the involvement of Teen Challenge in the grove revitalization effort will provide hands-on educational experience in forest management and wildlife habitat.
The production and sale of native pecans should occur within the first two years after the clearing has taken place and fertilizing has been conducted. This will increase the income of the farm. In five to seven years the additional grafted pecans will also bear. Environmental impact is significant in that additional land which is highly erodible will not be tilled to increase agricultural income. The social impact will affect the immediate family by increasing annual income to defray the cost of expenses such as property taxes and insurance. A presentation to small farmers given by the Missouri Department of Conservation or the University of Missouri Extension will demonstrate that small farmers should consider alternative crops. The project will also demonstrate how agricultural diversity can increase annual income, affect family life on small farms, and be an educational tool to future and current farmers. An increase in wildlife population will be documented with an outdoor digital camera.
The project is important to our small family farm to increase annual income to pay annual expenses rather than relying on sporadic harvesting of timber every 15-20 years. It is also important to reduce soil erosion due to having 14-30% slopes and Menfro silt loam soil. Farmers from the Southeast Missouri area need a demonstration of the use of alternative crops and the use of environmentally sound practices to maintain the soil and small family farms for the future.
In our area and the North Central Region, it is important that operators of small farms use available resources and develop environmentally sound means to increase annual income in order to preserve farms for future generations. Operators of such farms need to think beyond traditional row crops as outlined in the above proposal. They also need to educate and encourage other small farm operators to do likewise.
1. Brush has been piled around the edge of the pecan grove to increase wildlife habitat.
2. New grafted pecans have been planted on highly erodible slopes.
3. Clearing of grove (trees that are not pecan and brush) has been completed.
I have learned several things through this endeavor. First of all, I have had to be really firm and to the point with Teen Challenge to complete the project as promised and for the $3,500 they quoted. After several letters and phone calls, this has been accomplished. Secondly, I did not think to put [in the grant proposal] the cost of seeding the old pecan grove in clover/grasses which will add nitrogen to the pecan trees and be beneficial to wildlife. Even though I did not place this in the grant, I will follow through with this in the spring. Thirdly, I was overambitious about documenting increases in wildlife through digital photography. Now I realize that it will take several years for this to come to fruition. Also, it will be nearly impossible to document existence of wildlife with one digital camera attached to a tree in three acres of land.
WORK PLAN for 2008
In 2008, I will plant either a clover or mixture of grasses beneath the pecan trees. Also, some old fencing and old machinery needs to be removed in order to facilitate safe brush hogging.
Next year will be a learning process as far as pecan farming goes. I will need to research and learn how to fertilize, care for, and spray pecans. It is my intention to visit an operation in Paducah, Kentucky to directly speak to someone who has been in it for years and to read publications by Dr. William Reid on the subject.
Completion of the educational component is also important. I will contact Joe Garvey who is a supervisor at the Department of Conservation to design a program explaining the grant.
This year I have been telling people about the grant verbally. Most people in this area of the country are not aware that such grants are available. It is also rare for anyone to think of farming other than traditional row crops of soybeans, corn, and wheat.
I am planning to contact the Department of Conservation and determine if I can give a presentation about the grant. What I would really like to do is give a presentation about the grant and project I am involved in and have someone who knows about agricultural grants give a portion of the presentation on grant writing and other opportunities for grants.