Natchitoches Pecans LLC is a family owned and operated pecan orchard where duties are shared in bringing the crop to market, from scouting insects, fertilizing, pruning, and minding the store each Fall. Mark Swanson sees to the every day operations of the pecan orchard while his wife Julie takes care of the mail order business. Susan Vallee, Julie's sister, manages Little Eva's Pecan Store. Other family members help wherever needed.
Our story began in in 1986 when a portion of Little Eva Plantation was put up for sale. Our family had been in agriculture all of their lives - cotton and cattle farming. A pecan orchard was a type of farming so yea it should not be any big deal to just add pecan farming to our menu. So we purchased 465 acres of Little Eva and incorporated on October 12, 1987. What an adventure we have been on!! As they say the best lessons are the ones that you pay for yourself!!!
The orchard was in need of thinning so the first year we took out around 1500 trees. We called in scientists from the LSU Pecan Station for recommendations as to disease and pest management and what pieces of equipment were required for a successful pecan operation. So off we went with quite a few hundred thousand dollars invested. The second and third year we sold only "In-Shell"" and "Cracked Pecans" from the existing warehouse that was located right off LA Highway 1 during peak pecan harvest months of October through December. Highway 1 was very busy and we had many customers that signed our guest book. When Interstate 49 opened the traffic on Highway 1 was no more. So we started our mail order by mailing out brochures to our previous customers. Our client base grew each year and by 2000 we had our first website along with an 800 number. We expanded our offering with shelled pecans, pecan candies, pralines, coffee, pecan gift tins, gift baskets etc. along with Louisiana themed items that are unique and cannot be found just anywhere.
Our original retail location was located in the front portion of the warehouse. It was freezing when the temperature was cold and quite toasty on the days when our good old Louisiana weather dealt us that humid sweltering heat.
The first week of December 2005 an electrical fire completely destroyed the warehouse - retail area included! We were absolutely devastated. The following weeks left us in the dilema as to whether or not we should rebuild or just throw in the towel and cut our losses. So we prayed for direction... and on April 14, 2006 which was also Good Friday of that year, we got our sign. Our cow herd calves in the spring and while checking the pastures for new calves we discovered triplet heifers!!! All three were bucking and bouncing all over the pasture. Our son, Justin came up with the names Snap, Crackle, and Pop. Having twin calves is fairly common, but triplet calves are quite rare and even more rare to have all three the same sex! So with that we rebuilt - the retail store would be apart from the warehouse. The warehouse was rebuilt on the original site but expanded a bit to provide more room for storage, shelling , and custom pecan cleaning. Our retail store was named "Little Eva's" Pecan House. The little girl sillouette that is seen throughout our website and on our packaging corresponds to Evangeline or as we call her "Little Eva". Eva was the young girl in the book Uncle Tom's Cabin.