Georgia Pecans

Heroes, In Season, Local Heroes
on December 1, 2006

It’s understandable that Georgians wouldn’t want to have “The Nut State” emblazoned on their license plates, but if the largest crop grown were the determining factor, that’s what it would be.

Long known as the peach state, today Georgia is famous for its pecans. And some of the best come from Pearson Farm. The Pearson family has farmed for five generations in Fort Valley, Ga.—since 1885. Big Six, the actual farm operation owned by Al Pearson and his sisters, primarily produces pecans and peaches. Al and his wife Mary created Pearson Farm, a separate company, as a retail outlet for Big Six produce.

This time of year, Mary is busy in the retail shop with the business’s biggest mail-order season. Come January, you’ll find her in the test kitchen perfecting products like peach pound cake (which has a troublesome tendency to stick to its pans) or developing new ones such as spicy salad bits made with culled pecan pieces. Her product development has had a big effect on the pecan groves. Pointing to a few rows of color-marked trees, Al says, “Those are Mary’s pecans.” He’s referring to the round, fat little Elliot pecan that she favors. Short-bodied and hard-shelled, it shells out cleaner and with less breakage than the popular larger varieties. It also has more natural oils than most pecans, making it exceptionally sweet and flavorful and winning it attention from top chefs.

With careful planning, good marketing and a reputation for quality products, Al and Mary hope to leave their son and his heirs a business that will thrive for generations to come. Biting into one of their salty-sweet, perfectly toasted Elliot pecans, food lovers can only hope the same.

To read more about Pearson Farms, go to

By Damon Lee Fowler, a writer in Savannah, Ga.