March/April 2023 - 7

COVER STORY
F
rancis " Putt " Putney Wetherbee III, a fifth-generation
pecan farmer and president of his family-owned
companies, is shaking up pecan farming by
embracing regenerative practices, but not because he's out
to save the world. All he really wanted to do was save money
by growing more pecans with fewer inputs.
This was after his father tried to save him from the
challenging love-hate relationship of farming pecans, in a
time when the market dried up and he sought out other
career opportunities.
Growing up, Putt would be in the fields with his dad
before he was even old enough to go to school. His
father had the second mechanical harvester in the state
of Georgia, and when his father drove the equipment,
Putt rode in the little buggy in the back. In his very
early years, around age 5 or so, he had a job: to keep the
thermos and lunchbox that his mom packed his father
every day from getting buried in the pecans. Putt also
loved the whir and bustle of the cleaning plant. He was
enamored with pecan harvesting
" We still had a lot of hand labor back then. All the
people and the equipment moving around, it was just a
dream world, and I loved every bit of it, " said Putt.
But the shiny dream came to a halt when he was getting
ready to graduate college: His father invited him to not
return home.
" One, he wanted me to go get some world experience.
Two, things were in such bad shape for pecans that I just
don't think he thought there was much of a future in it for
me at the time, " Putt said.
Putt had several careers, including his corporate foray
that served as his final stretch outside of the family's pecan
business, before returning in 2009.
It was not an easy return. Putt's father was certain
that the situation wasn't going to work, and Putt was
commuting from Jacksonville, Florida, to Albany, Georgia,
where he stayed multiple days a week until harvest, when
he stayed full time. This lasted for three years, until Putt
was able to move his family much closer to the farm where
he worked under Tom Stevenson, who managed all aspects
of the operation, and who remains a very well-respected
member of the pecan community to this day.
" We were doing a great job in my eyes, " said Putt, " but
there were newer things that got my attention. Once
I started trying them, I saw that they worked. So I got
permission to do a little bit more experimenting. "
Putt took over operations in 2014.
What's making it all happen
" Production has not improved significantly or
consistently in this industry since about 1987. And we've
got newer and bigger problems that seem to creep up
NATIONALNUTGROWER.COM 7
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March/April 2023

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March/April 2023

March/April 2023 - 1
March/April 2023 - 2
March/April 2023 - 3
March/April 2023 - 4
March/April 2023 - 5
March/April 2023 - 6
March/April 2023 - 7
March/April 2023 - 8
March/April 2023 - 9
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