Shepherd Farms visit 2017. Dan Shepherd and his wife run the business started by his father. My friend Gary you’ll see in a few photos below knew Dan’s father when there weren’t many cultivars known some 30+ years ago. Along with Gary’s footwork of searching for pecans from our area (Burlington/Muscatine, Iowa) and south into Missouri, Gary spent 30-years searching for nuts with traits that both homeowners and commercial growers would be looking for in a pecan: most importantly crackability; then size along with resistance to pests. Gary has been attributed along with a few other fellas to name only a few: Bill Totten & John Gordon… as the guys who began it all.
In the beginning of Shepherd Farm, Dan’s father whom was good friends with Gary (Fernald) grafted the best of what Gary and friends were finding.
Gary’s best find is ‘Mullahy’ which has been decided upon most people as having hickory traits in it’s nut.
Here are photos from yesterdays visit to an enormous pecan orchard.
The first thing Dan Shepherd showed is hail damage that occurred this summer to his trees that not only did major damage to (all) his trees but the hail came thru when the nuts were of size enough to be ripped off the trees. Of course not all nuts were removed but a lot of this years crop ended up on the ground… probably midway thru maturation I’m thinking.
This is a newly grafted planting of Kanza and another cultivar that is right near Dan’s house. If Dan wants to know what pests are about in the others areas of his orchard he simply walks a minute from his home over to this planting to see what’s going on. Plus, it’s Kanza pecans that are in highest demand all over the country and abroad as-well.
Dan removed a few rows and I said I gotta have a picture of myself with some of his trees.
This is my friend Gary alongside a grafted ‘Mullahy’ - his selection.
Where any graft is on every tree Dan Shepherd paints that area.
Looking at a row of ‘Mullahy’ up the middle.
And the first Mullahy in that same row:
It was amazing to see the size of Mullahy in these large bins after we looked at the orchard. I screwed up and didn’t get a single picture of any of the bins filled to the top with nuts. What I am able to tell you is that each bin holds 500 pounds.
This is a ‘Burlington’ hican Dan’s father grafted. As a quick note, Dan said there’s just no money in growing hicans. This is a marker tree within the orchard that Dan kept but Dan did remove many-many hicans his father had grafted.
Me and my buddy along with the ‘Burlington’ hican (grafted on pecan)
The original spacing of The Shepherd orchard was 40 foot between trees and 40 foot between rows. I learned that decades ago the spray equipment was designed for this spacing. Dan said now the spray equipment is all designed row spacing of 50’. I asked him if he were to begin a new orchard what spacing would he do and his reply was 60’ x 60’ (trees and rows.) He continued to further explain that when a pecan orchard is spaced at 30-40’ between trees that when he removes a tree in a matter of about three years he doubles his crop because of removing that (1) tree. He said it’s difficult to tell another orchardist in their beginnings when they all of a sudden have 25’ tall trees that they need to remove every other one and if they do they will double their production. But truth be told, if a pecan orchardist has their trees on say 30’ centers and their trees have reached 25’ or more, it’s time to remove every other tree.
So this photo (I can’t say for sure) is still the original spacing of 40’ x 40’ (staggered rows of course).
A much confused pecan in the trade. It seems that ‘Witte’ varies very much so the scionwood is all messed up. This as I will show you appears to be the true ‘Witte’ Carya Illinoinensis:
Wes Rice’s book has pecans grown in Oklahoma true to size. Here is Dan Shepherd’s ‘Witte’ for reference:
And the kernel matches too. I’ve concluded Dan Shepherd has the correct Witte pecan:
The silhouette of a true ‘Witte’ Carya illinoinesns (pecan) tree. Very upright:
Lastly a half dozen or so photos of his cleansing machines and these machines automatically discard pecans that aren’t filled. This is just the machinery that gets them ready for cracking, later. In another entire building he has cracking machines that are able to crack 5000 pecans per hour “each.” It’s utterly amazing what I saw.
Behind this photo is a drying drum where it all starts to get the pecans to the correct moisture content and then what follows is what you see in this photograph.
Here’s his cooler. Of the 100,000 pounds appx. Dan harvested this year he’s sold all but that tiny crate to the right. It’s ridiculous. There are more bins for him to cleanse/crack but he’s sold so many already that standing inside this cooler was really a joke.
One last thing I wanted to show you is this “wax pen.” Dan said he uses it on galvanized tags and it doesn’t fade for 40-years. He said the only drawback is that it doesn’t write very well at freezing temperature and below. I had never seen/heard of this wax pencil. Notice the sting. That string is there to replace sharpening it. You unwind the string to get a fresh and ready to write pencil.