Pecans Prove Profitable for Blackwell Family

Story by Jeannie Stone

Paul and Carolin Foshee of Blackwell have always been hard-working people. Carolin taught in the Morrilton and Perry-Casa school districts for 17 years. As she tells the story, her husband had been in the business of laying tile and rock for 30 years, “and he got kind of tired of that and thought he would try and grow pecans. Eventually, he stopped laying rock altogether.”

That doesn’t mean Paul Foshee stopped working. It’s a different type of work, that’s for sure, but “it has been good to be able to grow into something that can involve the whole family,” he said. Carolin added, “and I enjoy being home. It makes it nice knowing I don’t have to drive a long distance every day.”

The Foshees own and operate Foshee Pecans and Services on Blackwell Rd. off Highway 64 and Interstate 40. The couple will celebrate 45 years of marriage in November, and Blackwell is where Paul and Carolin make their home just yards away from the heavy machines that clean, spray, crack and shell hundreds of pecans each minute during the harvest.

It is during this season of harvest that the couple’s grown children — Randy, Phyllis and Sheila — bring their own families to help with the chores.

“There are all kinds of jobs for our grandkids to do,” Carolin said, “and it’s good for them. The work teaches them math concepts like how to weigh stuff.”

The work teaches the younger generation a thing or two about economics too, as they discover the real truth about the hard work involved in earning a dollar.

“They learn that money doesn’t grow
on trees,” Carolin said with a chuckle, “even if pecans do.” Before the harvest, Paul works non-stop in the orchards and runs checks on the equipment. He works year-round at it. Yes, he does,” Carolin said.

In January, Paul starts pruning trees. It takes quite an effort to make sure each of the 2,300 trees is in the best form. That chore alone would do in most folks but by April Paul is ready to fertilize. May and June are when he sprays for insects, and in June, it’s time to start irrigating. He sprays again in August, and the harvesting begins around the first of October and runs through Christmas.

The Foshees began in the pecan business in 1984 with 300 trees spread across 15 acres. In 2005 they planted an additional 2,000 trees on this side of the levee, closer to the Arkansas River. The addition of the new trees increased the crop to 95 acres maintained by the Foshees. Those trees are producing their first crop this season.

There are many varieties of pecan trees, and the old orchard contains mostly Stuart, Pawnee, a few Choctaw and Mohawks which yield the largest pecans. The new orchard contains mostly Pawnee, and Oconee with the pollinating Kanzas at the end of each row. Carolin judges other pecans by taste and is convinced no other pecans taste as good as the ones grown on the family spread.

Obviously, the Foshees take pride in their work.

“We kinda have a reputation of having really good pecans,” Carolin said. “We try to have top quality,”

Updating farming techniques and planting new trees are only part of the Fosheeoperation.Thethrillforvisitorsisthe handful of enormous machinery operating at near ear-splitting levels allowing pecans to be processed at amazing rates of speed and efficiency.

The Shaker hooks on the back of the tractor rocks the pecan trees till they give up their nuts. Following the shake down comes The Harvester which resembles a combine. It scoops up the pecans which are then run through a Cleaner and Dryer capable of processing 2,000 pecans at a time.

The newest piece of the arsenal is an improved Cracking Machine which cracks 500 pecans per minute, an improvement over the older machine’s capacity to crack a mere 80 pecans per minute. The machine was purchased for $14,000. The equipment is expensive, Carolin added.

The Sheller and the Cracking Machine allow the Foshees to offer services to their customerswhomaybringtheirownnutsto crack and shell. The Sheller employs the use of small elevators which carry the pecans to the different blowers shifting the shells from the debris and separating the meat.

Finally, the Inspection Table vibrates the pecans down sloping steps which serve to flip the pecans over for better viewing by one of the Foshees. The entire operation is truly a sight to behold and quite a learning experience.

At any given time of the year, Foshee children and grandchildren are found shaking, shifting and bagging pecans, working alongside their parents and grandparents. Tammy and Randy Foshee of Little Rock regularly bring their son Nathan, 20, and even their married daughter Jessica to work the business.

Phyllis and Jerry Bergener drive from Hot Springs to join in the work. Their daughter Kasey, 17, and son Sawyer, 13, enjoy working with her cousins. The youngest members of the family live right down the road. Brooklyn and Dawson, ages 4 and 2, are the children of Sheila and David Whittenburg.

“This operation wouldn’t be possible without everyone pitching in,” Paul said. Extended family members Jerry and Mary Jo Whittenburg, Violet Young and Doylene Poteete are integral parts of the operation.

“It’s growing every year,” Phyllis Burgener claimed. And so it is. Little pecan trees grow and prosper, and so do little Foshees.

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