Growing a Family Farm

A state outreach program to assist farmers seemed created just for people like these two South Georgia pecan farmers. Now they’re expanding beyond their expectations.

When the Georgia Department of Agriculture developed their plan for the Local Food Procurement Assistance Program, it had pecan farmers like Curtis and Mattie Collins in mind.

The couple tend and harvest 760 pecan trees – Oconees, Cape Fears, Sumners, Cretes and Caddos – on 40 acres of a 100-acre tract in Cobbtown in Tattnall County. Many of the trees are young because Curtis had to cut down numerous Stuart cultivars his grandfather planted 100 years ago because they had stopped yielding viable pecans. The other 60 acres are wetland. Their land has its origins in slavery.

In 1865 after the Civil War burning of Atlanta and the March to the Sea, General Sherman signed Field Order 15 in Savannah. It required plantation owners to give freed slaves 40 acres of land. One of those was a 14-year-old-girl born
on October 14,1851, named Elizabeth. Her last name, if she had one, has been lost to the fog of oral history passed along in family stories told by one generation to the next. Her slave master called her Lizzie. She was Curtis’s great-great grandmother.

Lizzie married Handy Kennedy and they, and later their children and grandchildren, accumulated more land, some of it purchased on the courthouse steps in nearby Metter during the Depression. Land was important to them. They saw it as a means to provide for their families. Curtis doesn’t know if the land he and Mattie are farming, which they named EKC Farms after Curtis’s mother, Elizabeth Kennedy Collins, is part of the original 40 acres given to Lizzie. He and Mattie just know they love it and are grateful to the Georgia Grown Innovation Center in Metter for helping them refine their business selling pecans and introducing them to The Common Market.

This article in the 2023-2024 edition of Georgia Grown can be read here.

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