Over 20 years ago – an era post-paleo, but pre-paleo diet – Pallamallawa couple Rob and Susie Long were quietly nutting out ways to capitalise on their newly purchased parcel of land on the fertile banks of the Gwydir River. While not vast enough for broad acre farming, but boasting rich alluvial black soils, the intensive farming industry of pecans was calling.
“We had a young family and were both working so needed a realistic, reasonably low-maintenance industry, and trees, being a permanent crop, really appealed to us,” Susie explains. She laughs while expounding that if all else failed, at least they would have a picturesque grove of stately deciduous trees to admire for decades to come.
Thankfully their venture proved a great success, and with the humble pecan today holding a cult status among the kale and quinoa of the superfood movement, Rob and Susie are, perhaps, Pallamallawa’s original hipsters. Susie’s hearty laugh quashes such suggestions, but she admits the pecan’s perfect health record played a large consideration behind their decision.
“Pecans are such a natural, healthy food and in recent years the clean eating and whole food movement, plus the swing against highly processed food, has really reinforced the industry and been hugely advantageous.”
Their first orchard was planted in 2000 and included 700 trees of five mixed varieties, including the popular, larger Pawnee Nut. Establishing a pecan orchard is not for the impatient, with trees requiring grafting and up to seven years to return a crop. Susie explains that thanks to current technology, pre-grafted trees are now the norm, reducing crop times dramatically.
In 2012, the Longs launched their commercial operation, Pally Pecans, to great applaud. The Pally Pecan range includes both raw and flavoured kernels, including honey roasted, maple cinnamon, and lime and chilli. “The range is based on personal choice and local demand; we really try to answer the local voice and these are definitely our most popular flavours.”
Pally Pecans has a strong local presence, and is widely stocked across the North West, as well as selling via their Facebook site. The Longs also provide bulk nut and shell to Sydney’s Flemington Markets, and are proud of their boutique production that has evolved over the past 20 years.
“Harvest is a wonderful time and fascinating to witness,” Susie explains. “Around Easter time each year, with assistance from our friends at Stahmann Farms, three machines roll through, the first of which mechanically shakes the trees with a hydraulic arm that pulses so that the nuts drop. The second machine sweeps and airbrushes the ground to rid the husks, leaves and twigs and push the nuts into windrows while the third machine is like a street sweeper, scooping up the pecans.”
The couple also enjoy a long-running association with Moree on a Plate Food and Wine Festival, held in May each year. “Moree on a Plate is such a positive story for a regional town and an opportunity for residents to proudly support local producers, and a social, family day out.” After over ten years exhibiting at the event, Susie says many are surprised to see orchard enterprises in a region synonymous with grain and cotton production.
“Moree’s climate and soil is ideal for pecan growing and it’s quite a water intensive crop which our valley is fortunate to handle. We absolutely love being involved in Moree on a Plate and spreading the wonderful message behind our fresh, locally grown fare and it is truly a fantastic opportunity to celebrate being a member of such a great small community.”