Farmer sees positive side of recovery from storm

Published 3:55 pm Friday, October 11, 2019

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It took nine months for Pecan Ridge Plantation, just south of Bainbridge, to clean up the damage done by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

There is still a lot of mortalities on standing pecan trees across the 1,400 acres of property in various locations throughout Decatur County that the brothers Rob and Eric Cohen own. Stress from the storm has caused many otherwise healthy trees to slowly lose their leaves and die.

Pecan Ridge Plantation is expected to pick up 10 percent of its normal yearly harvest this fall, according to Rob.

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And yet, he remains as grounded and thankful as ever.

“My struggles are by far no bigger or worse than anybody else’s,” said Rob about recovering from Hurricane Michael.

The category 3 hurricane ripped through many stretches of property that the Cohens will no longer be working on. Instead of viewing that as a loss, Rob and his family see the upside.

“You look at it one way, that you hate that you’re missing some stuff,” said Rob. “But probably in the long run, down the road, you look back and think that was a blessing from God that we didn’t realize at that time. I hate that we lost it, but it allows us to concentrate more on other properties and that kind of stuff.”

Between January and March 2020, Rob is aiming to plant 2,500 new pecan trees across all properties the Cohens grow on. What could be looked at as a burden, Rob sees it for the potential the new trees could bring in 10 years.

“The storm took out a lot of trees, and most of the trees it took out were old,” said Rob. “So those older trees will now be replaced with a new, more viable pecan tree that will produce nuts earlier, because it’s a new variety, whereas those old varieties weren’t going to produce until they were 15-20 years old. These new cultivars will be producing by year seven and by year 10 we’ll be harvesting a good amount of nuts per acre.”

Rob considers himself and his family blessed. They’re safe. There hasn’t been a meal missed yet. The next 10 years might be a struggle putting the pecan orchards back together, but Rob’s perspective has a much bigger scope than that.

“I kind of think and look at it as me farming pecans is important, but what’s really going to be important is when I stand in front of Jesus Christ and give an account for my life,” said Rob. “Is he going to say, ‘Son, you did a really good job farming pecans, but what did you do to further my kingdom?’ That’s going to carry a lot more weight than me planting back a pecan tree.”

Planting pecan trees is a job Rob always sees himself doing.

“Our family has always done pecans,” said Rob with a smile. “If the ship goes down, we’ll be the last ones on it. It’s in our blood. I don’t know what else to do.”