NEW ROADS, La. (WAFB) - Pecans are a southern staple, and they’re one of Pointe Coupee Parish’s largest exports, thanks to Bergeron’s Pecans.
How do those healthy nuts get from tree to table? The family let WAFB in for a tour.
It all starts at a cracking contraption that’s been in operation since the 1920s. The Bergeron family has been in business for three generations. Nestled on the banks of False River, the Bergeron Fancy Shelled Pecan Halves facility traces its roots back to 1910.
“You gotta’ take pride in it,” Steve Bergeron said. “I mean, your grandfather started this thing in this location and we’re still here. A lot of people can’t say that.”
A lot has changed in the 100 years the plant has been around. The automated shelling plant now cracks nearly 7 million lbs of pecans every season, that’s roughly half of all of the pecans Louisiana exports. The machines run 24 hours per day between October and April, which is prime nut-cracking time.
First, the pecans get sorted by size. Then, they take a bath. From there, they get cracked and shelled by size. The halves eventually get separated from the pieces with the help of an infrared sorter. The electronic eyes helped the plant double its production.
Next comes a drying period. The nuts are taken down to about 5 percent moisture before they head to their last stop.
Human eyes and hands go through the final product to pick out any pieces that don’t make the cut. Essentially, every pecan you get from Bergeron’s is handpicked just for you. Each line of workers sorts through a different size, from halves all the way down to small pieces.
Out of the 15 states that produce pecans commercially, Louisiana ranks sixth in volume. The Bergerons say theirs are special because of their unique spot in the state.
“You’re surrounded by two rivers,” Bergeron said. “The Mississippi and the Atchafalaya. The ground is so fertile here and the trees get well over 100 feet tall.”
Bergeron pecans are shipped across the country, some coated with sugar and chocolate.
The Bergerons are proud to carry their grandfather’s legacy well into the 21st century.