I was fortunate to be invited by the National Peanut Board to travel to Camilla, Georgia for two days last week to represent Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery and learn all about peanuts—from their initial beginnings at a farm to when they are packaged. We also stayed at the beautiful Riverview Plantation in Camilla, in various lodges; mine had a nice view of the Flint River in the back.
On the first day, we embarked on a Peanut Buying Point Tour. The buying point is where peanuts go after they are harvested. Peanut buying points receive, weigh, clean, dry, inspect, grade, and prepare peanuts for storage and shelling.
After the buying point, the initial plan was to visit a peanut farm, but due to a change in schedule we visited a citrus farm instead. I was able to try an orange directly from the farm, and it was an interesting color—more of a green than an orange at that point.
We had lunch at Bread House, a health-conscious bakery and farm-to-table restaurant, and I was able to try a delicious peanut butter pie for dessert—my one regret from this trip is that I only ate half of it! One of my lodgemates brought hers back to finish later—it actually made it across three states (Florida, where we flew in to; Georgia; and back to Utah, where she lives).
The highlight of the tour for me was our visit to Tara Foods, later that day—Tara Foods packages peanut butter for Kroger, and it was definitely interesting to see how peanut butter gets from a manufacturing facility to the grocery store—as well as our visit to Casey Cox Kerr's farm.
Tara Foods, located in Albany, GA, has been in operation for 44 years, and employs 175 people. The facility is approximately 100,000 square feet, and it has expanded to 241 product lines, including retail peanut butter as well as peanut butter as an ingredient; extracts and flavorings; cooking wines; and vinegars and sauces. We weren't allowed to take photos inside the facility, but it was an interesting tour.
Our last stop of the day was at Casey Cox Kerr's farm. Cox Kerr is a sixth-generation grower who farms with her father, Glenn, and is the president and CEO of Longleaf Ridge Farms. The farm grows runner peanuts, sweet corn, field corn, soybeans, and timber—runner peanuts are the type of peanuts that are usually farmed in Georgia. Cox Kerr actually left Georgia for college, with plans to go into a non-farming industry, but then eventually came home to operate the farm. You may also know her from her 2019 Sesame Street fame, when she was able to "help" Cookie Monster find some peanuts for a peanut butter sandwich.
We finished the day with dinner at gorgeous CoveyRise, a family-run quail-hunting business nearby, with a gourmet meal cooked by Chef Asha Gomez. I'm not normally a carrot cake fan but this meal made me a convert; the bottom of the carrot cake was studded with peanuts, and it was delicious.
Normally, the lifecycle of a peanut goes something like this:
- Buying point—from here, the peanuts can go to a shelling plant (see next bullet) or an inshell processor.
- Shelling plant—the shelling plant further cleans and then shells the peanuts. After shelling, they are sorted for quality and separated into various sizes suitable for different uses. From here, the peanuts either go to a food manufacturer or crushing facility.
- Transportation—From the sheller, peanuts are shipped to manufacturers all over the world by truck, train, or ship.
- Inshell roasting—Some peanuts stay inside the shell and are roasted, with original, spicy, or sweet flavors. From here, peanuts can go to sport stadiums or a grocery store.
- Manufacturer—Most raw peanuts are shipped to manufacturers who process into various consumer products.
- Food manufacturer—Manufacturers process the peanut into products such as peanut butter, candy, snacks, and more.
- Crushing plant—Raw peanuts are crushed to produce peanut oil and peanut meal. This oil goes on to a refiner to produce a highly refined peanut oil. The meal is used for animal feed or fertilizer.
And some fun facts about peanuts and peanut harvesting in Georgia:
- Peanuts are planted in 76 out of 159 counties in Georgia.
- Peanut plans use less water than comparable sources of nutrition—they use 4.7 gallons of water per ounce of peanuts.
- Peanuts are nitrogen-fixing plants, meaning they need less fertilizer and pesticides.
- Georgia farmers produced 52% of the peanuts grown in the U.S. in 2021
- 1% of Americans have a peanut allergy; food allergy management, outreach, and education are key in protecting this group.
- Current national guidelines recommend introducing peanut foods to infants as early as 4 to 6 months, as research as found that early introduction can reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy by up to 86% in high-risk infants.
- Peanuts have more protein than any other nuts, with 7g per serving.
- In addition, they are an affordable option for families and foodservice operators—one serving costs 17.5 cents.
- Research has shown that peanuts can help control blood sugar, and regularly consuming peanuts is associated with lower body mass index.
- Several studies have shown nut consumption has a positive effect on heart health, including reducing high blood pressure and keeping arteries flexible.
Travel always changes me, and I'll admit Camilla definitely stole a piece of my heart, as it was a beautiful place to which I would one day like to return—and where I would, presumably, eat more peanuts and peanut dishes, straight from the nearby farms.