Peanut crop early, better than usual

Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

Up until this week it was all good news for peanut farmers, but they’re not out of the woods, yet.

Many peanut fields still need to be harvested and until there are consecutive days of warm weather and no moisture, those fields remain at risk. But yields so far this year have been good, according to farmers and mill operators.

“It’s been fast and furious,” said Leonard Stanton, a peanut sheller for Hampton Farms mill. Stanton said his shortest day during harvest season so far has been 12 hours. Stanton said on an average day he is working from 6:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. or 1 a.m. “It’s been a perfect harvest season. There were perfect growing conditions for everybody and that’s the reason for the higher yields. For the most part it’s been a good year for peanut farmers.”

Stanton said on average the harvest season begins in the last week of September or first week of October. This year peanut farmers began harvesting in mid-September.

Stanton said everything had been working in their favor until this week when it rained. Peanut farmers are unable to harvest their peanuts if the ground is moist. Stanton said what is needed now for the farmers is wind, sun and dry weather, which is something they never got last year. He said warm weather helps to conclude the harvesting season in the last week of October.

“There was too much rain last year,” Stanton said about the 2004 harvest season. “We also had snow and ice, it was a horrible harvest. Harvest season didn’t end last year until Christmas time.”

According to Stanton, moisture on the peanut crops after they have matured at times can cause black mold. The mold will devalue the peanuts.

The peanut processors in Roosevelt County, such as Glen’s Peanuts and Grain Inc., Hampton Farms and Sunland Peanuts Inc. receive the peanuts from the farmers and distribute them all around the United States.

“It’s good news for everybody,” Jimmie Shearer, Sunland Inc. president, said. Shearer said Sunland peanuts are distributed all over the world. “Without a good crop we can’t have a good product.”

Sunland Inc. officials contract with local farmers and Shearer said half of the amount of contracted peanuts are in already.

Farmers in the area grow Valencia peanuts, which are used for consumption in the shell and for products such as peanut butter and candy.

Glen McAfee, owner of Glen’s Peanuts and Grain Inc., said he’s heard good news from the farmers. Glen’s Peanuts and Grain Inc. workers process the peanuts once they receive them from farmers and distribute them to warehouses and farmer’s markets.

McAfee said farmers reported numbers of 2,800 pounds of peanuts per acre, higher than average yields. McAfee said he’s seen numbers as low as 800 pounds of peanuts per acre in recent years.

“It’s a good year and we’re seeing some of the highest yield that I’ve seen in previous years,” McAfee said.

McAfee runs the mill, but is himself a former peanut farmer. He said on his lands during the 1974-79 farming years he averaged 3,900 pounds of peanuts per acre.

He said peanut farmers look for brown spots in the hull to see if they are matured and ready for harvest. According to McAfee, it is this distinction they found in mid-September which allowed farmers begin to harvest their peanut fields earlier than usual.