WE CAUGHT UP WITH GARY AND JACOB ARNOLD OF ARNOLD BROS. PECANS TO SEE HOW THE PECAN GETS FROM THE BRANCH TO OUR HOLIDAY TABLE.
It is usually around Thanksgiving,” says Gary, “You can never predict when the freeze will come, but sometime in late November, I am sure every pecan farmer is waiting for that morning.”
The Arnold Bros. began harvesting in 1983 and have learned a lot about the harvesting process over the years. While equipment has changed and gotten somewhat more evolved as the decades have passed, working the orchards, and knowing the environment around the trees remains the same.
“You have to wait for the leaves to be completely brittle before the harvest can begin, otherwise the equipment won’t sort the debris properly,” says Jacob, who is the third generation of Arnolds to be running the farm. “As much as we love rain in the Mesilla Valley, once harvest has started, we pray we can go all six weeks without a drop, otherwise, it just prolongs the process.”
Just after harvest season the work really begins, when the farmers all over the valley begin pruning and preparing the orchards for the next season’s crop. Pecans are truly native to America and thrive in the southern part of the country because of the late summer weather that traditionally bleeds into September and mid-October. Pecans have a natural tendency to produce heavy one year, then lighter the next. Pecan farmers have found that if they prune their trees properly, however, the nutrients can be distributed throughout the branches and keep the yearly swings to a minimum.
From sun up to sun down the crews are out in the orchards shaking the trees, and separating the nuts from the leaves, branch- es, and all other debris that can find its way into the crop. As soon as the crews fill up their trucks, they then transport the nuts over to the cleaning plant, where a whole other crew runs that operation.
“We usually clean anywhere from 90,000 to 100,000 pounds of nuts a day,” says Gary, “Well after the sun goes down, we are still cranking away cleaning the nuts of the day’s work. The cleaning portion of harvest goes about twelve hours, seven days a week.”
There are more than 500 different varieties of this native superfood, but the Western Schley is the most common that we find in the Mesilla Valley. Pecans have become one of the most studied nuts in recent years and have proved to have numerous health benefits. They have the highest-level Vitamin E of any other nut, and even introduce nitric oxide in your bloodstream.
When it comes to America’s native nut, great taste is just the beginning. Pecans should no longer be overlooked in health conversations. This nutrient-dense nut is deserving of attention. Whether tossed in salads, blended in a smoothie, transformed into pecan butter, added to vegetables and main dishes, desserts, or eaten whole as a snack, the Mesilla Valley is flush with this superfood, and with harvest currently in full swing, there will be plenty of this year’s crop available for your holiday gatherings, as well as to enjoy all year long!
Arnold Brothers Pecans
4120 Shalem Colony Trail