On the campaign trail, Matt Pinnell who was running for Oklahoma Lt. Governor before last Tuesday’s election said “small town tourism” is growing when it comes to one of the biggest industries in our state. Oklahoma tourism is touted as our third largest industry generating $8.6 billion in travel spending, and $627 million in state and local taxes.
With his statement, it seemed like a good time to invite the now Lt. Governor Elect to Luther which happens to be a growing small town off Route 66 that is hosting the Luther Pecan Festival on November 17.
He accepted our invitation, and Lt. Gov-Elect Pinnell will announce the Grand Champion of our second annual Luther Pecan Festival Cookoff from the stage on Saturday afternoon.
Matt Pinnell was elected the next Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma on November 6th, 2018, garnering 62% of the vote and winning all seventy-seven counties. In addition to being the second highest executive in state government, the Lt. Gov also oversees ten Oklahoma boards and commissions, and is the chair of the Tourism and Recreation Commission.
From Tulsa, Pinnell also runs a small business with his wife, Lisa, an entrepreneur and inventor. Before being elected Oklahoma’s 17th Lieutenant Governor, Matt served as Director of State Parties for the Republican National Committee from 2013 to 2017, and served as Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party from 2010 to 2013.
As for pecans, the first Luther Pecan Festival taught the organizers something very important … pecans are a big deal. Our first event confirmed that as we overwhelmed our local pecan grove, and we sold out of pecans at the festival right off the bat. The day continued with an estimated 5,000 visitors enjoying the art show, food trucks, live music and Pecan Cookoff, but we came up short when it came to having pecans for folks to buy and take home for holiday baking, and more.
The second annual Luther Pecan Festival will have more pecans. It’s been our focus for a year now.
Four Oklahoma growers are coming to the Luther Pecan Festival including:
In addition, Couch Pecans, not part of the festival, will be open as usual beginning November 15. We also have participation with the Oklahoma Pecan Grower’s Association and OSU Pecan Management.
It seems like in addition to small town tourism, niche agricultural products like pecans are a growing economic opportunity for our state.
In addition, several Luther restaurants like Josephine’s Cafe and 116 Farmstead Market & Table will feature pecans prominently in their menus, and several food trucks and food booths will highlight pecans, such as JuneBugs with their “chocolate pecan pork skins.”
Luther’s new coffee shop, Brew 66, at 416 N Dogwood, is expected to open this week and will be open all day featuring mini donuts topped with caramel, chocolate and pecans.
Pecan Festival attendees will also find Paige Seknicka and Marleigh Smith, best friends, who have teamed up with Paige’s grandma Lela Carter who taught the girls to bake pecan pies. The girls have been hard at work baking their delicious mini pecans. pies to sell for a good cause. The girls serve on the Teen Board of the Infant Crisis Services in Oklahoma City and will send all of the money raised to the organization.
Pecans are Oklahoma’s most native agricultural resource, and are indigenous to North America. They’re also Oklahoma’s number one specialty crop, pumping roughly $30 million into the state economy in 2017 alone. Ranked fifth in the production among pecan-producing states—only Georgia, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona harvest more—Oklahoma pecan production averages 18 to 20 million pounds per year. Roughly 75 percent of that production comes from native trees; the remainder is improved varieties, commonly known as “paper shells.”
To beef up domestic demand, the American Pecan Council upped its game earlier this year by kicking off the industry’s first-ever advertising campaign. Branding the pecan as “America’s Supernut” appeals to the consumer preference for US-grown food, while touting the pecan’s proven health benefits as being high in protein and fiber, heart-healthy and loaded with nutrients. “It also aims to change consumer perception of pecans,” Chad Selman, president of the Oklahoma Pecan Grower’s’ Association. “Pecans are more than just a holiday nut; they’re a great everyday snack food.”
We might be on to something, small town tourism and niche agricultural products like pecans and even a donkey dairy! It’s #lutherlocal.