Few people are as humble as Kyle Durrence, which is to be expected of a man whose entire family was one of farmers. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all farmed. Reidsville is home, which also makes sense. The Durrence’s live on Kyle’s great-grandfathers homeplace in the middle of a pecan orchard.
The things he knows today, he attributes to his father Calvin Durrence, his grandfather David Segal Durrence, and friend of his grandfather, Kennon Tatum. His mentors and his role models, all three heavily influenced his life.
Durden Pecan Co., the Durrence family operation, is in Candler County and purchases pecans from local growers, does custom shelling, and is headquarters for the mail order business. The Durrence operation also tends 500 acres of pecan orchards of their own.
Kyle got his pecan business start back in October 1992 by placing ads for pecans in Southern Living magazine. He shelled the pecans, cleaned them by hand, bagged them up, and shipped them off himself. Seven years later, in 1999, he purchased Durden Pecan. Though he had been farming himself since 1986.
It wasn’t just a business venture, though. The growing and selling side empowers local farmers, and Kyle likes that. To say he’s “in it for the right reasons” is an understatement. Kyle works with local growers to help them keep their edge, where other businesses may keep it strictly transnational. Kyle says he’s a grower first, and a buyer second.
Kyle will tell you that farming has always been his passion and what he’s wanted to do. The freedom of being his own boss is liberating and there’s a rush for him in knowing that if agriculture is doing well, so is everything else. He says, “You haven’t lived until you’ve borrowed to make a payroll.”
He’s been around long enough to see the roller coaster of emotions on farm subsidies. In the 90’s, farmers who received subsidies had honorable reputations. Now, the public sees it as a black eye. But farming continues to evolve. With the need for crop insurance and cyclical nature of what crops are seasonal “winners,” farming is almost a branch of the government.
It isn’t a cake walk, though. 100% dependency on agriculture, cyclical payouts, and no benefits can be difficult when you’re raising a family. Kyle’s had ups and downs, the worst being 2000-2001. The weather, the drought, and the combined conditions of everything else made for a terrible pecan harvest season. But 2005, the year he unexpectedly lost his dad to brain cancer, is the year that took the biggest toll on him. Like any industry, your personal life affects the professional one and without the tremendous support of his family and the community, Kyle says he’s not sure he would have come out of it the same.
Farming doesn’t look a bit like it did even twenty-five years ago. A small farm now means you have less than one hundred acres. A small farm by definition of the 1980’s and 1990’s in today’s time would have a farmer working a second job outside of agriculture.
The beauty of it all, according to Kyle, is that the basics don’t change. What is necessary to do farming right has always been the same:
- Technology is great, he says, but it still won’t do the job for you. You have to be willing.
- Don’t ever spend more than you make.
- Stop trying to change the basics.
Today, the Durrence operation spans 500 acres of pecan trees, 2,000 acres of croplands leased to other farmers, timberlands for harvesting of pinestraw, and of course, Durden Pecan Co. His preference, Kyle says, will always be growing. While the purchasing side is enjoyable and makes for a good living, it’s the growing that is fulfilling.
Kyle is married to Sonya Lanier Durrence. They met in high school, though Sonya is a Metter native. He wouldn’t be as successful without her, as she helps run Durden Pecan Co. Sonya also has an Agribusiness degree from Georgia Southern University. They have three daughter, Bethany, Bailey, and Brynn.
Kyle was selected as All On Georgia – Tattnall’s August ‘Farm of the Month.’ He nominated Mr. Kennon Tatum for September, but because of Mr. Kennon’s ailing health at the time of the nomination, Kyle asked that Mr. Kennon be featured in August.
Going forward, the farms will be featured in order. Mr. Kennon nominated Tony Kennedy for the October ‘Farm of the Month.’