Texas Living

The Story Behind Young County’s Newest Pecan Orchard

By Staci Parks 4.8.22

Ryan Mote, a newspaper publisher turned farmer, is revitalizing his family’s legacy one pecan tree at a time. Mote is the owner of Pea Ridge Pecans outside of Graham, just west of Fort Worth. While he’s new to farming, the land upon which his 90-acre farm sits is a familiar comfort.

The pecan farm has been in the Mote family for nearly a century. Mote’s great-grandfather, who purchased the land in 1926, planted nearly 1,000 pecan trees there in the 1960s, along with watermelon, cantaloupe, and berries, which he invited people from the surrounding area to pick for themselves. Now, Mote is looking to revive his great-grandfather’s legacy.

pecan orchard
Photo by Jennifer Boomer

For the Love of the Land

The farm has always been close to Mote’s heart. It’s where he and his brother spent their summers. As a kid from San Diego, Mote saw exploring the land as an adventure.

His grandfather would tell him stories about the land, reminiscing about a time before roads and fences dotted the horizon. “He could still visualize being a little boy out in the middle of nowhere,” Mote says. “Which I can relate to, because I did it too.”

As his grandparents aged, Mote would make special trips from California a few times each year to care for the property. Mote’s grandparents died in 2018, and a tornado badly damaged the house the following year. Mote was the only family member interested in rebuilding. In fact, he’d approached his grandfather several years earlier interested in buying 15 acres — the most he could afford at the time. “We don’t sell land to family,” his grandfather had told him. “That’s inheritance.”

In 2020, Mote’s mother, Linda, helped make his dream of owning a piece of the land — and his childhood — a reality when she gave him the 90 acres as an early inheritance.

pecan orchard
Photos by Jennifer Boomer

New Farmer on the Block

Mote never envisioned himself as a pecan farmer. He spent nearly 20 years in leadership roles at newspapers and media companies — most recently as publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a position that brought his family from California to Texas.

Revitalizing the pecan orchard was an afterthought spawned from a conversation with his wife, Katherine, last February. As the house went up, the couple started thinking about what they should do with the acreage.

The original orchard was down to 140 remaining trees and overgrown and infiltrated with an invasive species. Still, Katherine was sure they could return to the original plan: pecans.

Mote started researching and cultivating resources, such as the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, that could help in this massive endeavor. The past year was filled with many lessons and several firsts: like learning how to operate a tractor and navigating an early harvest, which the family and friends completed by hand.

Neighborly Guidance

Once Mote officially had the land, he wasn’t sure how to properly insure it. “It was all new to us,” he says. “We’d never been landowners before.” A neighbor referred Mote to Kammie Fore, a Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent in town, who helped him navigate the responsibilities of being a first-time landowner and advised the family on potential ways to save money on insurance coverages as they were building their home. Fore made a personal visit to the farm and took an interest in its revitalization. Mote says he appreciated the neighborly guidance, which he couldn’t find with a traditional insurer.

pecan orchard
Photo by Jennifer Boomer

A Labor of Love

Mote is grateful for the support and “sweat equity” he’s received from his community, family, and friends. One friend made several trips from Phoenix to help with the revitalization efforts and was present for the farm’s unexpectedly early first harvest. He delayed his flight home to work alongside the Motes harvesting pecans by hand.

“The outpour of support from people really rolling up their sleeves diving in — even people you don’t know — is probably the greatest treasure of the whole experience,” Mote says.

In less than a year, the Motes have built a home and a 1,500-square-foot barn, cleared and revitalized one-third of the land, planted nearly 400 pecan trees, bought equipment, drawn a water well to irrigate 30 acres, harvested nearly 1,000 pounds of pecans by hand, and sold pecans to customers across the country through a newly created website.

They’re just getting started. Mote has plans for phases two and three over the next few years to revitalize the other 60 acres of land, including planting 800 more pecan trees.

Get Crackin’: Pea Ridge Pecans ships 2- and 5-pound boxes across the U.S. (You can even get a pecan cracker.) Even better, online sales help fund the revitalization project. Visit pearidgepecans.com/shop.

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