The Green Valley Pecan Company’s story began in 1946 when Keith Walden, who had always dreamt of having his own farm, purchased a cotton farm previously owned by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. The farm was based in Southern Arizona’s beautiful Santa Cruz Valley. In the late-50s, Keith started to see oil-based fabrics popularizing in the market so he tested a variety of different crops, including grapes, apricots and almonds. What Keith discovered during this time was that the soil and climate were perfect for growing pecans. In 1965 Keith began planting an orchard of pecan trees.
In 2000 the farm’s manager felt that organic would be an important direction to head in, so they started trying out organic farming methods. Although pecans are originally from the Mississippi Valley, they discovered that the Santa Cruz Valley’s environment worked well for growing pecans organically. Because of the valley’s drier climate and the lack of major pests for pecans in the region, organic farming was easier to implement than in other major pecan growing areas.
They also realized growing pecans organically could be challenging. They found that organic crop yields can be less predictable, which can make it difficult to predict how many trees to add to their orchards to meet future demand.
But overall, farming organically has enriched their knowledge of the trees themselves, which they use to improve their conventional pecans as well. Some of their practices include water conservation and recycling nut shells to create compost. They are also trying to incorporate legume flooring crops to minimize the effects of pests like green and black aphids.
Today the Walden family continues to be involved in the farm and the community. Keith Walden’s son Dick Walden is the current CEO, his granddaughter Deborah Walden-Ralls is the VP of Risk Management, and his grandson Rich Walden is the Santa Cruz Valley Farm Manager. They believe in giving back, providing employee benefits, and donating land to build a high school, housing, and a future hospital. These actions have resulted in lasting ties, with 4th generation employees still dedicated to working on the farm and in the processing plant.
For the Walden family, farming is very rewarding. At the end of the day, as a farm and processor, they are proud of seeing a quality product through from earth to package.