The 2011 Appling County Farm Tour was held Oct. 25. This year’s tour began with a visit to the Wilbur Murray Farm and featured “The Pecan Harvest” at 9:00 a.m. At one time Wilbur row cropped about 50-60 acres of corn and soybeans. In 1987, after watching his grandfather’s pecan orchard produce more return per acre than he was taking in row crops, Wilbur decided to plant 23 acres of pecan trees. Ten years later he planted seven more acres of pecan trees when the family saw the potential of the first 23-acre orchard. Around 2004 they planted another 40-acre orchard in a different spacing than the original orchards. The new orchard was planted so that the row crops could be interplanted. Different varieties were planted in different fields for many reasons such as disease resistance, yield and cross-pollination.
Since 2004 China has become the largest buyer of pecans. The United States produces 80 percent of the world’s pecans, with Georgia being the largest producer. Appling County has almost 1,000 acres of pecans with a value close to $2,000,000.00. Wilbur and Brenda Peacock Murray have been married for 31 years. They have two daughters and sons-in-law, Miranda and Adam and Michael and Kimberly. They also have three grandsons, Elijah, Jacob and Cainan.
The next highlight of the tour was at Branch Farms featuring the round cotton module. Randy Branch is the owner of Branch Farms and has been farming all his life. He grew up farming with his father and when he graduated high school in 1986, Randy began managing the operation. Branch farms include 6,000 acres of farmland growing cotton, peanuts, corn and wheat. This year they grew 3,300 acres of cotton. The 7760 Round Module Builder is the next generation cotton picker, combining harvesting and module building solutions into one versatile cotton harvester. In order for farmers to harvest cotton it usually requires module builders, boll buggies, tractors and fuel to run it all. It also requires lots of labor. With the 7760 cotton picker, no module builders are necessary, no boll buggies and no tarps to cover the modules. There is a significant reduction in the harvest time, fuel and labor costs. The 7760 picker wastes no time during harvest season and the farmer gets an immediate increase in harvesting efficiency.
The tour also included a visit to Moody Forest Swamp featuring timber. The Moody Forest Natural Area protects 4,426 acres of diverse natural communities, including the only known example of an old growth longleaf pine-blackjack oak forest. As many as 350 acres of the site are home to 200 to 300 year old longleaf and slash pines and trees older than 600 years grow in the cypress-tupelo sloughs in southeastern Appling County. In 2001 The Conservancy paired with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to create the preserve.
Lunch followed at a local restaurant sponsored by John E. Tillman, the recipient of the 2010 Excellence in Agriculture Award. John served as treasurer and was one of the founding fathers of the Appling County Stockman’s Association. In 1970’s John had one of the largest swine farms in the county utilizing the latest technology available. He also had 22 acres of tobacco, 300 acres of corn and timberland. In 1987 John purchased his first poultry breeder egg houses. John received the 1975 Soil Conservation Man of the Year Award and was elected to the Appling County Board of Commission and served 22 years.
The Baxley/Appling County Chamber of Commerce, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and local businesses sponsor this event.
The top five commodities in Appling County are as follows: Poultry and Egg - $53,717,384.00; Cotton - $27,474,925.00; Blueberries - $18,894,000.00; Dairy - $14,752,800.00; and Forestry - $8,677,201.00.