A love of the land and progressive agriculture as well as a knack for seizing opportunity is much behind what drives Jim and Deann Smith, my parents and owners of Benson Park Pecans of Shawnee, Oklahoma. Both have found the entire arena of pecan growing deeply rewarding.
Having spent the later half of his youth in South-Central Oklahoma, pecans have been part of the picture for my Dad from early-on. There were especially lean times during those years when money earned from picking up pecans by hand provided some desperately needed income. Most folks from pecan country think of simply picking up pecans by hand - perhaps to sell or maybe just to crack and eat. Pecan trees are so plentiful in many parts of Oklahoma that it's easy to take them for granted, but with a little management it's just as easy to see that they are indeed a blessing from God.
A few years ago, an interest in harvesting pecans led Dad to visit the Savage manufacturing facility near Madill, OK where pecan harvesting equipment is produced. This led to the discovery of the Noble Foundation and Scott Landgraf. The Noble Foundation is a multi-million dollar non-profit organization that seeks to promote and support progressive agriculture native to Oklahoma. Scott is retired, but was the head of their Pecan Division. Truly, he is a scholar and a gentleman. The Noble Foundation offers an outstanding program for pecan growers at any level. After going through pecan school Dad became a Cooperator with the Noble Foundation, essentially partnering with them.
One of the things you notice at pecan growers meetings is a lot of husband and wife teams. Such is the case with Dad and Deann. I've always said Deann could out-work any two men I know and boy can she cook!! Both are members of the Oklahoma Pecan Growers Association (OPGA) and enjoy attending the annual meetings together as well as the Texas Pecan Growers Association (TPGA).
They have jumped into the pecan business with both feet and are managing around 100 acres of pecan trees. The trees are a combination of native and improved varieties. Both Dad and Deann are innovative in their own way. Dad has grafted hundreds of trees to improved varieties. He often uses a spade-truck to transplant young native trees to a desirable location in the orchard and then later graft them to improved varieties.
Deann is experimenting with different ways of using pecans in her recipes and would like to publish a cookbook dedicated to recipes that use pecans as one of the ingredients.
So, whether you're just in the market for some delicious and healthy pecans or you're interested in raising some yourself, give them a call or an Email - they'd love to hear from you!