Most of Texas is suffering from severe or extreme drought. We are very thankful for the irrigation systems that water our orchard.
First here, we see a picture of our nutlets back in early April. Someone once asked, “What does it take to make a good pecan?“ The answer is that it takes plenty of sunshine, plenty of water, and some method for keeping the destructive insects and fungi off of the developing nuts and leaves.
One of the questions that we are most frequently asked is “Aren't all pecans grown organically?" While this may be the case for some backyard trees, it is not even remotely the case for most commercial orchards. In order to control the insects that eat the developing nuts, and to control the fungi that grow on the nut's outer shuck, most commercial growers spray synthetic chemicals on the trees numerous times each year.
In the second picture, five months have passed, and these nuts are nearing maturity. The green shuck will split open, and the ripe nut inside will be ready for harvest. The highlite of the 2006 growing season was a hail storm that missed our orchard by less than half a mile. The baseball sized hail took the paint off of some nearby houses.
Farming in Texas is not for the faint of heart. Most of the state is subject to episodes of serious weather, including hail, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, windstorms, and drought. Any one of these events can damage or destroy an agricultural crop. California, by comparison, is rarely subject to extreme weather, and as a result, it is the most productive farmland in the world. So , why do we continue to farm here? The answer is simple: the finest tasting pecans in the world are grown in South Texas!
Next, we see the latest addition to Rio Grande Organics. These 400 acres of pecans are on the banks of the Nueces River, near Crystal City, Texas. We have begun using only organic methods in this orchard. The trees were originally planted by Dr. Darrell Sparks of the University of Georgia, perhaps the worlds leading expert on pecan tree horticulture.
Most of the pecans in this orchard are of the Wichita variety, a heavy bearing, dependable producer. Pecans are notorious for being alternate bearers, meaning that the trees will only bear a crop every other year. Rio Grande Organics has an extensive program of nutrition, crop load management, and water management that has helped to reduce this tendency. We are fortunate to have two of the best pecan growers in Texas working with us; Robert Sandner, our organic consultant, and Joe Urban, our Crystal City farm manger.
In the fourth image, you can see the Amistad Reservoir, which was formed by damming the Rio Grande River just north of Del Rio, TX. A canal system that was built in the 1920's to irrigate farmland along the Rio Grande River brings water from this lake to our pecan orchard in Quemado, TX.
This reservoir is capable of holding 4.5 million acre-feet of water, with one acre-foot being the equivalent of 326,000 gallons of water. The Amistad Reservoir is one of eight reservoirs in Texas that can hold more than 1 million acre-feet of water. Only one of these giant reservoirs was built in the last thirty years; the other seven were built by a prior generation of forward looking citizens. Environmental opposition has halted the construction of most new reservoirs in Texas. If you like the “win-win“ of reliance on foreign oil, you're going to love being dependent on foreign food!