Dwight Davis with one of his pecan trees. He’s aiming to sell primarily to the Chinese market. ()
About 45 miles south of Macon, Dwight Davis is busy growing pecans.
That is a striking change of scenery from the job he had in Atlanta for more than 30 years. Davis, former co-chairman of King & Spalding’s consumer class action practice, retired as a senior partner in January 2013. He’s been down on the farm ever since.
How are things in Hawkinsville? “Sure beats answering interrogatories,” the pecan farmer says.
Davis remains rooted in the profession. He works with the faculty and teaches at Mercer University School of Law, where he earned his own law degree. He also is a board member for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and serves on the North Georgia Mountain Authority.
But it is pecan trees that take up most of Davis’ time these days. And he is no gentleman farmer. He’s working the land.
How did you get into the pecan business?
After 30 years in scorched-earth litigation I thought it might be good karma to spend the next 30 years growing something. That makes a nice story but the fact is my good friend, law partner and business partner Paul Quiros convinced me this would be a great investment and a lot of fun. He was right on both counts.
How large is your farm? How many trees?
The farm is 770 acres and we have planted 16,500 trees.
What do you do with your crop?
Since this is a new orchard we will not have a crop for at least another four years. This is not a business for those in need of instant gratification.
When the crop does come in, we plan to sell primarily into the Chinese market. We have selected the type of trees that produce the large nuts preferred by the Chinese consumer.
Do you work the farm yourself or do you have help?
I do work on the farm, manual labor mostly. Thankfully we also have a bright young farm manager.
What’s a typical day for you on the farm?
There is always something that needs to be done to the trees. We [started] trimming them again in January and they must be sprayed for disease and insects about every two weeks. You will finish one spray and it almost time to start over.
The pecan trees you see while driving on I-75 seem to all be in perfect rows. Is there a reason for that?
They are actually laid out using GPS. It helps in harvesting and tending the trees to have them in perfect rows. Besides, they are beautiful in those rows.
What are your duties at Mercer? How often are you there?
I am the Practitioner in Residence. I consult with faculty on practice-related issues and teach two classes—class actions and trial practice. I am there three afternoons per week.
How did your family feel about moving down to the farm?
My wife loves it. My kids are supportive but worry about my mental health.
What do you do for fun in Hawkinsville?
Work on a pecan farm.
On your farm, is it pronounced pi-kahn or pee-can?
All of my Northern friends try to affect a Southern accent and say “pee-can.” But in Hawkinsville we actually use the more refined pronunciation—”pi-kon.”
The more interesting fact is that the Chinese phrase for pecan is “American health nut.”
Tell us your story:
What’s your passion? Tell us how you spend your nonbillable hours. Contact Mary Smith Judd at (404)419-2841.