In 1965, my father, the late Bill Landgraf began grafting small pecan trees along Huauni and Turkey creeks in South Central Oklahoma. He was accustomed to the small native pecans that had grown along those creeks all of his life. The new varieties that were available to him then provided a whole new future to pecan management and marketing.
He studied the attributes that the USDA varieties made available to him. He chose varieties such as Choctaw, Mohawk, Graking, Barton, Wichita and Comanche. Little did he know some varieties were a mistake, while others would develop into winners. By the early 70’s, Bill was harvesting enough of the new varieties to start marketing them.
The nuts from the vigorously growing trees were high quality that brought referrals and return visits. My mother, the late Leota Landgraf, marketed the pecans out of her garage. Leota enjoyed the customers and their visits, while generating income for the family. The volume of pecans that were sold out of the garage grew every year.
Bill continued to learn more about spraying, fertilizing, and growing consistent crops of large quality nuts. By the mid 70’s, he started wholesaling the surplus nuts to move the volume of pecans he was growing. It was not a problem to find markets for those nuts. It was more of a problem of how to divide them among the vendors.
At this point, wholesaling was probably the best option. Location of the family home lacked visibility and accessibility by the public. Customers had to be familiar with the area in order to get there. Leota’s health began to fail. This caused a problem with her continuance in aggressive marketing. Wholesaling was the marketing strategy that best fit the next few years, while maintaining only limited sales though the garage.
A New Era:
In 1976, Janice and I started our first planting of pecan trees. Bill furnished us with Choctaw and Mohawk wood to graft the seedling trees we planted. I had decided that with a limited budget, it was better to spend money on an irrigation system than grafted trees. At the time, little did I understand the significance of irrigation in production quality nuts. The thought at that time was only to insure tree survival. During the late 70’s, Janice and I were pleasantly surprised at the growth of the new planting and the potential income that it provided our family.
With the birth of our three sons Jeff, Wes, and Justin during that period, we planted more acres of pecan trees in 1979, 1980, and 1981. As the trees grew, so did the boys.
In 1982, Janice sold our first pecans of any significant quantity off the carport. That was the beginning of Janice’s pecan marketing career. Pecan volume continued to increase and the significance of the income continued to draw attention to the pecan enterprise.
With the failing health of my mother and her lack of ability to keep the pecan store open, in the garage, Janice and I asked to move the business to our farm shop in 1985. We agreed to include Bill’s pecans in the marketing process in exchange for their customer base. The first year or two, Leota very much enjoyed coming to the pecan shop and visiting with her customers.
The business, trees, and boys continued to mature. We have irrigated, sprayed, fertilized, pruned, and harvested the pecans together truly making this a family operation. Through the 1980’s it seemed so easy to grow pecans, looking like there would never be another poor day. On October 31, 1989, the “Halloween Freeze” dropped the temperature in our orchard to 22°F, killing not only the crop on the tree, but greatly affected the crop of 1990 and the next four years.
Technology has continued to challenge us with the use of green shaking of immature nuts, pruning techniques, new varieties, and better irrigation techniques. In 1999, we installed about 100 acres of sub-surface drip irrigation, a state of the art system. The result of the new and innovative techniques and equipment continues to insure quality and quantity of production.
The operation continues to expand! We are now near 200 acres of irrigated pecan trees, and 60 acres of dry land production. In 2000 we built a new retail shop with the processing facility in the same building, expanding the building in 2014 to have a larger cleaning facility at the rear and storage for the clean pecans. Our family has grown with the addition of our daughter in laws and 4 granddaughters who all enjoy helping in the Pecan Shop. Landgraf Farms is a family operation and each fall we look forward to greeting our returning customers and meeting new ones.