Hope you all had a nice weekend! If you’re doing any meal prep tonight or looking for a Meatless Monday recipe, did you see these Vegetarian Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Boats from yesterday? They are SUPER delicious and what I’m craving like every day. They are also full of prebiotics and probiotics, so great for digestion and gut health.
Peanut Harvest Tour
Today, I’m finally recapping my Peanut Harvest Tour from a few weeks ago! It took place in Camilla, Georgia and was sponsored by the National Peanut Board. Upon arriving in Tallahassee, Florida, I hopped in the shuttle bus and headed to Georgia. We had a nice meet and greet the first night at the club house so I cleaned up a bit before dinner. We met all the other guests and introduced ourselves. There were a variety of professionals there – other dietitians, people working for the National Peanut Board, a pediatrician, consultants and people in the food service industry. I sat next to Robyn for dinner and just chatted about career stuff and life. I feel like I’ve known her for years through emails, reading her blog and guest posting, but we hadn’t met until this trip. After dinner, we headed back to our cottages to call it a night.
Tuesday was a full day and a very educational one at that! We got to meet a few peanut farmers and learn all about the process of growing and harvesting peanuts.
Did you know that peanuts are the most sustainable nut among all nuts? About 4.6 gallons of water are needed to produce one ounce of peanuts. When you compare that to other nuts, like almonds for example, they require 80 gallons of water to produce one ounce! While I’ve never considered these statistics before, they are important for our environment and water conservation efforts.
Also, most people don’t realize peanuts are grown in the ground, not in trees. Hence, people who are allergic to tree nuts (like me), don’t necessarily have an allergy to peanuts and vice versa. Peanuts actually grow into the ground. They start above ground and grow into the soil. Peanuts also make their own nitrogen and fertilizer, so farmers don’t need to apply any. Peanuts have the smallest carbon footprint of any nut. Isn’t that crazy cool?!
Picking and Harvesting Peanuts
Did you know Georgia is the top peanut producer in the US? I did not until this trip. Another thing I never considered was the time of day of harvest. The time you harvest peanuts is vital. You don’t harvest in the morning because the roots and shells are too tough and they are more likely to crack. If the peanuts crack, they can still be used for peanut oils and such. However, in these instances, cost value goes down by nearly 2/3, so it’s not efficient for farmers to pick them then and lose money. The afternoon hours are the best time to pick peanuts.
Planting peanuts occurs between late April and June, and the harvest season is going on now. Peanuts need about 135-145 days to grow.
Soil temperature and hydration is also so important. We learned about some of the great technological advancements that have helped improve peanut production. If the region doesn’t get enough rain, farmers have to use irrigation systems. They can personalize how much water they give to different zones on the farm due to these advanced irrigation systems. So, one acre of peanuts may be much drier and gets more water versus another acre on the farm.
After leaving the farm, peanuts go to a local milling point where they are milled and graded for quality. Peanuts need to meet minimum size requirements, and they look for dirt, rocks, sticks, cracks and any signs of aflatoxin in the peanuts that are picked. I didn’t realize how intricate and detailed this whole process is.
The Farmers Growing and Harvesting Peanuts
We got to meet Casey Cox, a 6th generation peanut farmer. She is also one of few women farmers. I have so much respect for her for defying the odds, and taking on all of this responsibility. Her father, Glen (5th generation) is still involved in the farming aspect, but will retire soon. I love that about farmers – most of them are family owned and multi-generational. Most people think farms are all big agricultural giants in it for the money. In reality, 97% of farms are family owned.
Farmers are such cool people. Most consumers have no idea the time, money, sweat and grit that goes into farming. And most of the farmers I’ve met and spoken to still remain so passionate about their work. The hard part is what doesn’t get translated to the public, which is where we, as dietitians, have a big role in translating the science and facts. Alot of this revolves around organic vs. conventional farming and pesticides. Many small family owned farms don’t have the funds to do all organic farming. But, that’s not to say they are applying pesticides and chemicals right and left. Many of them have housing close to the farm, so they would actually be harming themselves by using excess chemicals. They have pesticides that only target weeds or herbs, and everything can be very specific. Farmers have to know so much information and take courses on all of this, so they are very educated.
After our tours, we were served a very southern afternoon lunch. I ate corn, bread pudding, peach cobbler, and the best grilled peanut butter sandwich I’ve ever had, washed down with sweet tea. The secret was a berry they mixed in that is grown in Georgia that had a similar consistency to honey. After lunch, we took a peaceful pontoon boat tour on the Flint River, before heading to White Oak Pastures for dinner.
White Oak Pastures & Chef Virginia Willis
We stopped at White Oak Pastures for our final tour and for dinner. William Harris, the owner, has been published in many publications, including the NY Times, such because of his dedication towards raise grass-fed, humanely raised beef.
We ate dinner in the most beautiful room with the most beautiful table decorations. It reminded me of a beautiful rehearsal dinner set up.
Chef Virginia Willis, a James Beard award winner and cookbook author, cooked for us and everything was so delicious. They had a fun cocktail hour where we mingled with lots of tasty appetizers. Everything had peanut included in some way or another. Fried chicken wings with peanut butter powder, a peanut butter beef slider, and fresh veggie crudité with peanut oil bagna cauda.
It was a family style dinner, full of good food. I didn’t take many pictures because I was too busy enjoying the company, but I definitely left feeling overfull. It’s okay to overeat at certain social situations because you’re enjoying the whole experience, and that’s definitely how I felt upon leaving.
After an action packed day, we were ready for an early bedtime. We had breakfast early the next morning before heading to the airport to fly home. It was a short and sweet trip!
Have you ever toured a farm?
Disclosure: This was part of a sponsored trip hosted by the National Peanut Board. The National Peanut Board covered all of my expenses. I was not compensated for my time. All opinions are my own.