Mitchell County farmers assess storm damage - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Mitchell County farmers assess storm damage

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March 6, 2007

Baconton-- If you ever driven down Highway 19 through Baconton, you've probably seen the beautiful pecan orchards with enormous trees lining the road.

Now thousands of those trees are on the ground in the aftermath of the tornado.  Pecan farmers in Mitchell County are now assessing the damage, and asking the government for help.

Bucky Geer once farmed a thriving, nearly 400 acre orchard.  Now it lies in ruins.  "It just sunk in as we stand here and look, this is something that we've worked for for twenty years," said Geer.

The tornado tore through the grove at a diagonal angle, wiping out almost every tree for over 200 acres.   The trees, some of them up to a hundred years old were ripped directly from the ground by their roots.

"It devastated the heart of the grove it left just the fringe areas to be worked which are not as profitable or practical to work," Geer said.  All that's left for pecan farmers here to do is work what's left and try to figure out where to go from here.

Across the road on highway 19 nearly all of a one-hundred and fifty acre orchard is useless.   "There's a lot of acres that we won't do anything to this year because its so. . . Ninety percent of the trees are on the ground so there's no point in us trying to do anything right now," said farmer Frank Brooks. 

The loss is devastating.  Even if they replant, it takes seven to eight years for a new pecan tree to become profitable.  Also, the pecan trees can not be insured, so besides the loss of income, is the cost of all new trees.

A local pecan farmer and former state chairman of the Farm Service Agency, James Lee Adams says with seventy percent of Mitchell county's economy being agriculturally related, the hit won't just effect the farmers, but it will ripple through the area.

"Not only will we not be buying supplies and fertilizers and sprays and other needs of the grove this year but then we won't be shelling pecans, we won't be selling them," said Adams.  He says now the farm service agency is their only hope for reimbursement.

"We're going to show them our problem we have and just uh, get on our knees and beg. Because this is catastrophic losses," Adams said.

The farmers are counting on the agency for financial help to cleanup and clear the trees so they can get back into their groves.  They'll never get back all of what they've lost, but for these farmers even a little bit of help will go along way.

Adams estimates the cost of each tree he lost at between $600 and $700.  He's estimating a loss of over half a million dollars, and that is just one of the orchards hit in Mitchell county.

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