TEXARKANA — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has appointed a retired Miller County extension agent to the newly-formed American Pecan Promotion Board.
John Turner, affectionately known as “Pecan John” by friends, family and former coworkers, was one of 17 producers and importers from across the nation appointed to the board.
According to the USDA, the board will “provide a framework for agricultural industries to pool resources and combine efforts to develop new markets, strengthen existing markets and conduct important research and promotion activities.”
Turner, who retired from the Cooperative Extension Service in 2015 after 26 years, said American pecans have long suffered from a comparative lack of market promotion.
“The pecan is the No. 1 nut in the world, as far as I’m concerned,” Turner said. “The other nuts we produce are more widely adopted because they all have some kind of marketing behind them.”
Turner said he was nominated to join the board, in part, because of testimony he delivered to the USDA in 2015, addressing the overall lack of promotion and marketing for U.S. pecans.
Each board member will serve a term of 2-5 years, according to the USDA.
Turner, who said he has been working with pecans for the past 70 of his 73 years, helps his extended family farm an estimated 1,100 acres of pecan orchards in Miller County.
“When I was a toddler, my mother would be picking up pecans around a tree,” Turner said. “She’d have little bitty babies around her, and she’d point out pecans for them to pick up. That’s how she started us out. So I’ve been in pecans a long time.”
Turner said that during his college years, he would return home during breaks between semesters to help pick pecans by hand. Much of the process has since been automated, he said.
Janet Smallwood, an administrative specialist at the Miller County Cooperative Extension office, said Turner was known for finding ways to educate his constituents on the value of pecans, and promote their growth throughout Arkansas.
“Pecans have always been John’s thing,” Smallwood said. “He did a lot of grafting workshops, he worked with at least four pecan orchards that I can remember and he did newsletters throughout the year. Producers would donate pecans, and he would sell them to raise money for the local 4-H organization.”
In 2017, the most recent year for which data are available, Arkansas growers harvested more than 15,000 acres of pecans, producing an estimated 2.2 million pounds of the nut.
The American Pecan Promotion Board was established in February, under the authority of the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996.
John Turner, who retired from the Cooperative Extension Service in 2015 after a 26-year career, was appointed in 2021 to the USDA's new American Pecan Promotion Board in 2021.