Appling Co. Living 2015 - Page 80

Lewis and Bill have always enjoyed farming together. Bill served as Chief Deputy of the Appling County Sherriff’s Department. Lewis served 20 years as the Sherriff of Appling County. Even though the trees were planted just twenty years earlier, Lewis, who was four years old at the time, said he thought the trees looked huge back then. Lewis and Bill would watch the workers knock the pecans out of the middle of the trees with bamboo sticks; they couldn’t reach the top-most parts of the tree, even with poles. They tell tales of men on five foot ladders trying their best to shake the pecans out of the trees. Lewis and Bill’s father, Bill Parker, Sr., became the farm manager upon his return from WWII, and in the 1950’s, W.L. and Georgia decided to divide the land between their five daughters. The Parkers opted to take less land in order to receive about 75% of the pecan trees. “Our dad knew the value of those pecans; he’d already been working on the farm for years, and he wanted to continue with what he loved,” said Bill. Even at this point, the pecans were being hand-harvested and processing the pecans required about 150 employees. “We waited a lot longer to mechanize our process than we 78 Appling County Living probably should have,” said Lewis, “but the help that we had working for us were people who had picked up pecans for generations – first for our granddaddy, then our dad, and then us. We wanted to keep them on as long as we could and put money back into our community.” Eventually, they got too old to pick up pecans by hand, and it became difficult to find workers, so in the 1990’s the Parkers made the switch to mechanized machines. Before the machines, 150 workers were able to pick 86,000 pounds of pecans on the best day they ever had, and they were able to spray 10-15 acres with chemicals in one night. After becoming mechanized, two full-time workers and about 10 seasonal employees can pick and process more than 40,000 pounds of pecans in a single day – every single day – and can spray up to 60 acres now in a single night. The Parkers began planting younger orchids of different varieties, and planted 1,800 of their own trees – more than doubling the acreage they’d been given.