While Georgia might be better known for its poultry and peanuts, it’s also the nation’s leading producer in pecans. Even though some areas of the state were severely impacted by Hurricane Idalia, the overall quality looks to be strong.
“Our crop looks pretty good this year. We’re just getting into them. We’ve been into our Pawnees and gone over them and now we’re getting into our other varieties and still got a ways to go,” says Richard Merritt, Owner of Merritt Pecan. “We got some good weather right now and thankful for that. I’m ready to get after it and let’s get them in and like I said, as long as we got some good weather, we need to, we’re out here every day.”
It’s been that way for the past several months as well, with these trees needing plenty of TLC throughout the year in order to be ready for harvest.
“It’s a lot of work. We’re, spraying a lot, mowing, spraying herbicides, it’s just something. Working on irrigation. Doesn’t ever seem like we get caught up. But somehow or another we pull it together at the end,” says Merritt.
Unlike many other pecan operations, the Merritt’s are able to get them from the field to their shelves all in house thanks to their very own shelling plant.
“We get them out of the field and then we take them back to the plant and get them cleaned and shell them, we size them to shell them, or we might just put them in the warehouse and sell them on the open market,” says Merritt.
Speaking of market, this general store is a one stop shop for everything pecan as they sell candies, snacks, and of course, homemade pies.
“We make our own pies and a lot of our cakes here. So, that’s labor intensive. We don’t have a lot of machinery to do it. It’s all done by hand. We make our pies six at a time and we usually sell about three thousand pies in a year. So, we think that special touch makes it more delicious for the customer,” says Tammy Merritt.
That’s quite the jump a from their original store back in 1980’s, which had just a fraction of the products they now offer.
“Yeah, we started off small. We just had pecans and then we started having roasted, salted pecans and then customers asked, ‘well, why don’t you have pies?’ So, we added pies. So, we listen to our customers and see what they want and look at other vendors and see what they have to offer so we can give a better selection to our customers,” says Tammy.
Its customer base has also grown over the years with many making it a destination stop.
“It’s gratifying to have repeat customers and asking for our pecans every year. We got a lot of people that make our stop as they travel to Florida, or they travel to Atlanta, or Birmingham or wherever,” says Richard.
“We have so many who support us. We’re on a major road. We have a lot of travelers who go back and forth from Albany to Columbus, and they are very loyal. They stop in and we know them by name. They’ve been coming here for years,” added Tammy.
By: Damon Jones