At the corner of 16th and Salinas streets, Leticia Hurtado and Yolanda Lopez are on the sidewalk formulating their plan of attack. The pecan tree they’re standing under has good nuts, but many of them are too far up in the branches to reach.
“You could climb up like a cat, if you like,” Lopez joked in Spanish.
No one makes a move.
Both women are originally from Mexico. Now, they live on the same street in this East Austin neighborhood. When they have free time they like to walk around gathering nuts – not to eat, but to sell.
It’s still early in the season, but in previous years Hurtado and Lopez have made between 50 and 70 cents a pound, a number that will only grow the more the nuts change hands. The reason? Pecan hunts are not only a beloved Texas tradition this time of year, they’re often the first link in a supply chain for a booming global commodity.
Hurtado holds up what she’s collected so far in a plastic shopping bag.
“I thought it was one pound, but it’s more like two,” she said. “I think the bag can hold ten pounds. It’s heavy!”
All over Texas people like Hurtado are bringing shopping bags of nuts to buyers. You can find the buyers working out of scrap yards, in empty lots. The most important thing for a pecan buyer is to own a really big scale, like the kind you’ll find in the warehouse of Callahan’s General Store.