Pecans Propel King Hill Farms Profits
January 20, 2018
Written By Michelle Cummings
Not many cities can lay claim to the largest pecan in the world. This unique tourist attraction isn’t the only hidden gem in Brunswick, Mo., the state-proclaimed “Pecan Capital of Missouri.” Nestled in the hills bordering the rich soils of the Missouri River bottoms along Highway 24 is King Hill Farms, which has been farmed by members of the Manson family for more than five generations.
Today, brothers Meredith and Paul Manson harvest and sell fresh pecans as part of their family farming operation, which includes established groves with more than 3,000 pecan trees.
“Harvesting pecan trees used to just be a hobby for us,” says Meredith, who co-owns the farm with his brother. “Then we discovered how profitable pecan trees can be, so we stuck with it. Now, it has become a full-blown business.”
Meredith, Paul and their wives and children care for the thousands of trees spread out among the family’s nine different farms. The crop requires year-round care, including: pruning, spraying, mowing, clearing fallen limbs and gathering the pecans once they are ready to be harvested.
“Caring for the pecan trees on our farms can become pretty labor intensive,” Meredith says. “Especially with having to pick up so many fallen stray sticks to prepare for and prevent damage to harvest equipment, as well as grafting young trees. It takes many different people to give the orchard the care it needs.”
Harvest time for pecans starts around the third week of October and lasts through the first half of December. Many pecans fall from the tree on their own when ready, especially after the first freeze of the year, but some may need additional assistance to make it to the ground. The more stubborn nuts are usually coaxed from the tree by mechanical shakers, which send gentle vibrations up the trunk to expedite harvest.
Pecan trees are especially plentiful at King Hill due to the confluence of three major rivers, the Missouri, Grand and Chariton. The trees are right at home in the rich, moist bottomland soils of the area. The flowing waters and wildlife, such as squirrels and birds, are nature’s primary means for distributing pecans from one point to another.
“We suspect some of the pecan trees on our farm are over 600 years old,” Meredith says. “It’s always better if we can work from a pecan tree that was planted naturally, as nature knows how to do it the best.”
Three different types of pecans are produced at the farm, including cracked (outside shell cracked), cracked and blown (kernel separated from cracked shell) and kernels (edible part of nut). King Hill Farms sells pecans both directly to customers and to large food manufacturers. Many of the pecans are taken to southern states, with a large number sent to Georgia.
“We’re not sure what happens to the pecans after we sell them to buyers,” Meredith says. “Some are distributed to grocery stores, others are packaged and sold to a large food distributor.”
While harvesting and selling pecans is hard work, it also means developing a big sweet tooth is just part of the job. The Manson family has perfected dozens of pecan recipes, and Meredith’s daughter recently released a cookbook with more than 200 recipes incorporating pecans, including Meredith’s tried and true favorite, pecan pie.
In addition to pecans, the brothers run a diversified farm where they grow wheat and more than 60 varieties of seasonal vegetables. King Hill Farms also has a roadside stand where the Mansons sell their pecans, garden produce, fall ornamentals and other assorted food items.
With such a wide variety of crops, the Manson brothers’ former pecan tree hobby has grown to become a true cash crop which greatly contributes to their farm’s profits.
For more information, visit kinghillpecans.com.