color pecan

When land speculator and merchant Nelson Tift founded the city of Albany on the banks of the Flint River back in 1836, its economy was based on cultivating cotton like many settlements across Dixie at the time. That all changed after the Civil War. “King Cotton” was dethroned due to a combination of the boll weevil attack and America rapid shift to industrialization. It was “adapt or die” time for Southern agriculturalists and they had to diversify and pivot into more profitable crops to survive.


Enter the pecan (Carya illinoensis). A species of hickory residing in the walnut family, the pecan originally came from Asia and only started to appear in North American around 10,000 BC when the first humans began to cross the Bering Strait. Though it is regarded as nonnative to the state despite the occasional wild one found in the river valleys, the pecan tree was found to be well-suited for the sandy loam and clay soil of South Georgia. To this end, pecans were quick to become the crop of choice for Georgian agriculturalists due to their delectable taste and marketability.


The first organized effort of row-upon-row pecan production began in Savannah, Georgia sometime around 1889. Seeing the success of that business venture inspired farmers in and around Albany to also start planting pecan trees. By 1910, a “pecan boom” began to sweep the South with the Dougherty County area as one of its epicenters. Landowners throughout Dougherty County began transforming their land into orchards for pecans. By the 1920s, Albany was producing 2.5 million pounds of pecans per year. This was symbolized by the Albany District Pecan Exchange completing its building and warehouse in 1922 in the 200 block of W. Roosevelt Ave. in Downtown Albany right next to the train station. This fully established the Albany, Georgia area as the Pecan Capital of the World.



A century later, the pecan industry continues to grow, going from a mere 2.5 million pounds in the 1920s to an astounding 142 million pounds in 2020. The abundant water and fertile soils around Albany makes ideal conditions for growth. High-yielding schley-variety pecans (a.k.a “papershell” pecans) with easy to crack shells, had a production valued at $216.6 million in gross farm sales as of 2022. When China’s economy expanded at the turn of the 2010s, their people acquired a huge appetite for delectable nut. And thanks to India emerging as a high-value importer for pecan on the international market as it recovers from the pandemic, that number is only going to go up.


Though the Albany area has had its setbacks such as the 2018 Hurricanes which devastated almost 80% of the new crop and the impact of the pandemic, the regional pecan industry has emerged stronger than ever. While other markets have emerged out West in Texas and New Mexico who attempt to lay claim to the “Pecan Capital” title, Georgia, and by extension the Dougherty County region, has always emerged as the leader of the pack. Growing from 120,000 acres (2015) to 144,000 acres (2022) in just five years. Compare that to New Mexico which only grew 3,500 acres in that same time (43,500 to 47,000) and Texas, whichcolor pecan shrank 15,000 acres (115,000 to 100,000 acres). Albany is the rightful owner of the pecan crown and deserves the right to be known as the “Pecan Capital of the World.”


Pecans kept the Albany area’s agricultural economy strong in the past. It’s keeping Albany strong in the present. And it will keep Albany even stronger in the future! We see tremendous upside!