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Pecan conference coming up at Las Cruces Convention Center; food contest is open to all


The Western Pecan Growers Association’s (WPGA) 57th annual conference, Sunday, March 5-Tuesday, March 7, in Las Cruces will include an educational program covering every aspect of the pecan industry, from shelling to selling.

Pecan experts from across the United States will discuss the current pecan market, irrigation, mechanical pruning, weather, two new pecan varieties, pecan research, pecan pests and more.

“This is a really good group of speakers,” said New Mexico State University pecan specialist Richard Heerema, Ph.D., who coordinated the conference’s educational programming along with WPGA Director John White.

The conference keynote, “State of the Industry: The World is Going Nuts for Pecans,” will be delivered by American Pecan Council President Alex Ott of Fort Worth to kick off the conference.

National Pecan Federation Chair Larry Don Womack of De Leon, Texas and National Pecan Shellers Association Chair Steve Zaffarano of Atlanta, Georgia will present “Advocating for Pecans.”

University of Arizona Extension Meteorologist (emeritus) Paul Brown, Ph.D., will present “Consumptive Water Use of Pecans and Winter/Spring Weather Update.”

The conference will also include the Pecan Food Fantasy contest, which has 16 categories with cash prizes of up to $1,000 for the best pecan pie and other pecan recipes and is open to everyone. The WPGA banquet on Monday night will include an auction of the Food Fantasy contest prize-winning dishes, with proceeds benefiting the WPGA scholarship fund.

There also will be an exhibition of the pecan industry’s latest innovative products and services, a trade show and a corn hole tournament.

Heerema said he will moderate a growers panel on the mechanical pruning of pecan trees, which will feature four pecan producers from across the Southwest discussing all the ways they trim trees to maximize pecan production.

White said a vendor presentation program has been added to this year’s conference, allowing vendors to talk about the products and services available to pecan growers across the country.

WPGA will honor long-time board members Mike Kilby, who is retired from the Arizona Cooperative Extension Service and has attended more than 50 WPGA conferences, and Art Ivey of Tornillo, Texas whose grandfather was instrumental in the creation of WPGA.

WPGA, founded in 1971, is based in Mesilla Park. The nonprofit represents pecan growers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas.

New Mexico is second only to Georgia in commercial pecan production. Doña Ana County produces 70 percent of New Mexico’s pecan crop and is the single largest pecan-producing county in the U.S.

NMSU has become a repository for pecan seeds and trees from throughout the region where pecans grow naturally, which stretches from central Mexico to northern Illinois, including parts of eastern Texas and Oklahoma.

The conference will be held at Las Cruces Convention Center, 680 W. University Ave. About 600 people are expected to attend.

Online registration (www.westernpecan.org) closes Feb. 23. Registration at the door will be available at an increased cost.

Contact WPGA Director John White at 575-640-7555 (text) and directorwesternpecan@gmail.com.