Lawrence County is embracing peanut farming

LAWRENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Lawrence County farmers are planting considerably more peanuts than last year. But besides farming, other economic aspects are coming into play as the legumes go into the ground.

County Judge Dale Freeman says after the first crop in 2010 did so well, the phone calls and visitors started coming.

"We went to Memphis and picked up different people and showed them the type of soil and water capacity we've got and all at once we've got peanut people running everywhere wanting to bring in industry." Freeman said.

According to Extension Agent Herb Ginn, there will be nearly 8 times more acres planted with peanuts since 2010.

Ginn, "You know in 2010 we started out with one grower and 600 acres. Now we're up to about 5 thousand,close to 8 to 10 growers."

Hunter Burris says his farm will have about 450 acres in peanuts this year doubling last years acreage. Burris said a lot of ground in Lawrence County is perfect for growing peanuts.

Burris, "It's Loose, when you dig the peanut you don't want the dirt to stay on the peanut. It doesn't pack down hard and water doesn't stay on it." Last year many of his fields were underwater this time of year. Now they somewhat resemble a desert with dirt devils dancing across the rows of new-planted peanuts.

Judge Freeman says the crop has brought in a new company to Portia.Birdsong Peanuts is building a huge dryer in the town.

"It will generate 4 or 5 jobs or more plus they are talking like it could be talking 2 or 3 hundred trucks a day going in and out of that facility." Freeman says. Plus he has been in touch with another company that may want to put another facility next to the dryer.

Drivers and seasonal workers could bring in some serious cash to the small town's store and restaurants.

Burris said the peanut crop didn't pay for all the new equipment he bought last year. He laughed, "The bill collectors still want to get paid."

"There is still a learning curve." he said. One big change for peanut farming is chemical application.

Burris, "A lot more back to the old days when you had conventional beans. You know you can't just put round-up on these things and make them look better because they won't be there."

Greenway Equipment in Walnut Ridge has also made an investment in Harvesting equipment. They have actually secured a dealership for combines and pickers. Yet another sign that the county is accepting the new crop.

"When we started harvesting last year we couldn't hardly go up and down the end row because we had so many people watching us trying to figure out what we were doing." Burris said. "It's interesting to us cause it's something we've never grown before."

Ginn told me that Lawrence County really centers on agriculture. "So anything that's going to help agriculture is going to help our county. And this is a positive move and one I am looking forward to watching develop and grow."

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