Richard Bland College pecan harvesting underway

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: November 19, 2019 | 12:30 p.m. 

PRINCE GEORGE – As Thanksgiving approaches, one of the staples of the season for some is the sweet flavor of fresh pecan pie, with many foragers trekking to Richard Bland College to collect bags of nuts for their own culinary needs.

According to the college, the day after Election Day kicked off the campus’ annual pecan harvest, which runs through November 22 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Since 2013, the college has been harvesting the pecans, with proceeds from the pecans’ sale going to “maintain the health and productivity of the trees and to support student success.”

In an interview, Richard Bland College Communications Director Joanne Williams explained the process of harvesting and how the process supports the college’s goals in terms of nature preservation with the trees, with the college serving as the home of the largest and oldest pecan grove in the Commonwealth, with nearly 1,000 trees on their grounds, and supporting the college’s student body.

“We have machinery that will gather them up,” she shared. “The students help us along with property management. Then the pecans are sent to the Good Earth Peanut Company. The owners of that company are both alums of Richard Bland College and they put various coatings on them and we sell them and put the money back into maintaining the grove and for student scholarships.”

Williams continued, “Some years we have really good harvests and some years we don’t. So far, this year looks to be much better than last year.”

She noted that the harvest usually takes approximately two weeks and it doesn’t begin until after you experience a hard freeze, saying, “that is when the leaves drop and the shelling around the pecans opens up and dries out so the pecans fall.”

Williams reiterated that the community is invited to visit the groves and pick pecans free-of-charge after some visitors in 2017 expressed concerns following some now-canceled changes. At that time, the harvest began in mid-October and ran through mid-November, with the groves being open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for pecan gathering before closing on November 16 to the public to allow equipment to continue harvesting.

Additionally, during that year’s harvest, the college had students manning the groves with community pickers being asked to “support the College’s educational mission by contributing $2 per pound for pecans they pick,” with those proceeds going to “support students and the pecan groves.” Even though, at the time, Williams said the contribution was voluntary and there were community pickers who paid and others who didn’t, which was fine with the college, some pickers said they felt pressured into providing money to collect pecans in the groves after having gathered nuts there for years for free and opted not to visit the groves during the 2017 harvest.

This year, no mentions of voluntary contributions were made by the Williams or the college in their news release to the community about the ongoing harvest.

“We tried that one year,” Williams said referring to 2017, “and it was very labor-intensive for students to be there all day and asking for contributions. So this year, we have a number of student workers throughout campus and some of them will be helping with harvesting the pecans.”

Speaking in regards to the past decision to request per-pound donations from community pickers, Williams said, “It was a contrition, [they] didn’t have to contribute anything, and we didn’t stop them from picking up pecans. The only thing we ask is when we have the machinery out there, we ask people to stay away a good distance because we don’t want anyone to be hurt.”

Anyone with questions about this year’s harvest can contact Williams’ office at 804-347-3321 or via email at

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