When the seasons change to autumn, peanut farmers go into high gear. The Fall is harvest season and this year several registered dietitian nutritionists had an opportunity to visit a farm and witness the annual peanut harvest first hand. These food and nutrition professionals were enthusiastic about the opportunity and the event was even better than could be expected. The visit took place in Drewryville at the farm of Jeffrey and Stephanie Pope and their production facility for Hope and Harmony Farms peanuts. The Popes are fourth generation peanut farmers and Jeffrey is a former chairman of the National Peanut Board.
Before learning about peanuts, the group received a quick lesson on cotton farming. Cotton is a common rotation crop with peanuts, since the rotation allows for reduced pests, lower needs for inputs (fertilizers and fungicides), and both grow in similar soil. From the fluffy white cotton fields, the group headed out to the peanut fields about a 15-minute ride.
Along the route, the group learned some fun facts about peanuts, including:
- Peanuts have more protein than any nut with 7g per ounce
- With 30 vitamins and nutrients, peanuts are a true superfood
- There are 4 types of peanuts grown in the U.S. – Virginia, Valencia, Spanish, and Runner
- There are about 7,500 family farmers growing peanut across the U.S.
- Researchers recently showed that early peanut introduction may help reduce peanut allergies among those infants at highest risk by as much as 87%
In the fields, the group learned about how peanuts grow underground, their average yield sizes, how harvest happens, and even got to taste a peanut fresh out of the field. All of the dietitians had great questions and were thrilled to get their boots dusty as they got a taste of the peanut farm life.
Finally, participants toured the Royal Oak/Hope and Harmony Farms gourmet peanut snack facility. They learned about how peanuts are roasted in shell and out. Each batch of these peanuts is hand-sorted and cooked in small batches to carefully control flavor and quality.
After returning home from their adventure to a peanut farm, many of the participants enthusiastically shared their experience and their love of peanuts, just like Meme Inge did on her blog saying that some days, “peanut butter is my life blood.” We totally get you, Meme.
Many thanks to all of the dietitians who joined us for our peanut farm tour. Most of all, thanks to the Pope’s and the thousands of peanut farming families all across the U.S. working hard to provide America’s favorite nut!