Lee Co. pecan grower reflects on hardships months after Hurricane Michael

U.S., China tariff war concerns continue for South Georgia farmers

LEE COUNTY, Ga. (WALB) - Farmer Roy Goodson said they were able to harvest less than half of their normal crop after the damage Hurricane Michael caused in October.

Goodson has been farming pecans his whole life, and on Thursday, he spread his contagious laugh as he told stories of his time with his family on his orchard and how he got his start, learning from a friend and fellow farmer, Bill Hayes.

Roy Goodson laughs while telling stories on his orchard.
Roy Goodson laughs while telling stories on his orchard. (Source: WALB)

“He was really good at pecans and I picked up a lot from him. He was my mentor,” said Goodson.

But the laughs began to fade as Goodson looked around the orchard. He saw all of the trees, now protected in white sleeves, that had been destroyed by Hurricane Michael.

Pecan grower, Roy Goodson walks along his pecan orchard.
Pecan grower, Roy Goodson walks along his pecan orchard. (Source: WALB)

“We had limited harvesting out here, so we had a big crop but we couldn’t gather most of it,” Goodson explained.

Last year, the orchard produced 150,000 to 200,000 pounds of pecans. This year, Goodson is left with 50,000 pounds of harvested pecans at best.

“Well, pecans, it takes 10 to 12, 15 years to get back in production and that’s where we’re hurting so bad,” said Goodson.

Goodson and other farmers in the region are waiting for money from the Disaster Relief Aid they’ve been guaranteed.

“They kept promising, but I think it’s coming. It’s just not as fast as we want it to," Goodson said.

It’s been a long, trying year for Goodson on his pecan orchard. But the smile returned to his face as he showed WALB the pecans on one of his best trees. A clear love for farming that even the hurricane couldn’t destroy.

“Be patient with us and we’ll see how the good Lord works it out,” said a hopeful Goodson.

Goodson said not only did they lose most of their crop this year, they’re now unable to ship their pecans to China.

Pecan farmers still aren't sure how much money they could potentially lose from the trade war.

Goodson said they’ve traditionally sold a good portion of their pecan crop to China. He said the pecans grown here in South Georgia are actually wanted overseas more.

Goodson said the pecans grown here are bigger in size and better in quality.

“That’s a part of life, you know. Hopefully they can get the tariffs worked out, but if they don’t, we just live with it,” said Goodson.

Cotton is also a big Chinese export and peanuts are next.

Corn isn’t exported as much as the other crops, so corn farmers potentially won’t lose as much money, according to Joe Boddiford, the Georgia Peanut Commission Vice Chairman.

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