Pecan harvest done for another year | Photos, videos

Stahmann Farms' Trawalla 2019 pecan harvest comes to an end


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The drought has luckily not affected the pecan farm too much

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STAHMANN Farms' Trawalla property has been hard at work finishing off its 2019 pecan harvest, as it officially came to an end on Tuesday.

The harvest began in May this year, with a light shaking as all the nuts had not quite ripened, before a second shaking began in July.

"They've ripened up from the colder weather," farm manager Dave Reibel said.

The farm is the largest pecan farm in the southern hemisphere and currently has around 110,000 trees, consisting of two varieties - the Wichita and Western Schley - spread across about 2,500 acres.

"We hope to double in size over the next 10 years, grow to a couple hundred thousand trees," Mr Reibel said.

The farm planted its first lot of trees back in the late 1960s, with the first harvest in the mid-1970s, and has continued to grow over time.

There is currently 25 full time staff with around 50 casuals, with another five full time workers in the workshop to ensure their equipment - most of which is imported from the US - stays operational.

The pecan harvesting begins with the nuts being removed by a mobile shaker. Usually four shakers run at any one time and can cover around 100 acres per day between the four.

A sweeper then comes through and blows the nuts into windrows on either side of the trees.

Next, stick pickers will walk along each windrow and remove all the sticks that fell to the ground during the shaking process.

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There are currently 14 stick pickers working at the farm, with each picker usually able to clear six to 10 windrows per day.

Lastly, the harvester comes along and vacuums up the nuts off the ground.

They are then emptied into shipping containers and taken to the cleaning plant on the farm to remove all the rubbish before the nuts are cleaned and dried.

They are then transported to Stahmann Farms' Toowoomba plant to be packed for distribution.

The nuts are distributed both in Australia and internationally, with about half sold in major supermarkets locally, such as Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, with the other half exported to places like China, Europe, New Zealand and the US.

After the harvest, the trees are pruned to help maximise the growth of the nuts.

"It lets more sunlight in there so that your ideal tree has got production up and down the tree," Mr Reibel said.

With the drought raging across the region, Mr Reibel said they've been lucky in that it hasn't affected them too much, benefiting from a high security water allocation from Copeton Dam for its drip irrigation system.

"We've been a lot luckier than other people," he said.

"It's because we're a permanent planing...we don't have an option not to plant."

While the farm has been dealing with about 1000 cockatoos over the last four or five months, they do avoid a problem which other pecan farms around the world have to deal with.

"We're pesticide free which is a really good selling point," Mr Reibel said.

After having to deal with a pesticide problem during the 1990s, there is now less than half a percent of their trees that are affected.

Mr Reibel and the staff will now enjoy a well earned barbecue to celebrate the end of harvest for another year.

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