It’s A Wrap

The 26th Annual Georgia Peanut Tour concluded Thursday evening with another wonderful Southern meal. The tour is known for it’s Southern hospitality and great food! Thursday night was no exception to the rule. After a full day of tours the attendees were treated to a wonderful meal at Southern Woods Plantation.  This picturesque setting was fitting for the final evening on the tour as new found friends were able to join together for a porkchop meal, potatoe casserole, green beans and wonderful desserts. The tour would not be the same without new attendees and those that have attended all 26 Peanut Tours.


However, this year we had the youngest attendee ever on the Peanut Tour. His name is Scott and he is the 3-month old son of Adam and Amanda Smith. Amanda is an ag economist with the University of Georgia.  Scott enjoyed his first peanut tour and he even got to sit in a plane at Thrush Aircraft.


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It’s a Flat Mr. Peanut

Ever heard of Flat Stanley? Many of you may have received one in the mail from a child asking you to take a photo of yourself with the Flat Stanley and then mail it back to the school with information about where you live. The children are then able to learn all about various cities, careers and places to visit across the U.S.  New this year on the Georgia Peanut Tour was a “Flat Mr. Peanut.” He was brought to us by Lyndsay Bashore, associate scientist with Kraft Foods. Everyone enjoyed having their photo taken with Mr. Peanut on the last night of the tour.  Check out some of the photos below.

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Shell ‘Em and Ship ‘Em!

After heading over to Tara Foods, we paid a little visit to Birdsong Peanuts, a shelling plant in Albany. Birdsong Peanuts started as a storage company in 1911. The company shells raw peanuts and markets them to customers throughout the world. They have plants in Georgia, Texas, Virginia, and supply manufacturers domestically and internationally. Remember the buying point blog from yesterday? The peanuts go from the field, to the buying point, to the shelling plant. It all ties in together. Once they get to the shelling plant they are sent through again based on type (runner), graded, cleaned all foreign materials, then bagged for storage to be sent off to manufacturers. At Birdsong they are just now getting through the 2011 crop and will begin shelling the 2012 soon. This year there are enough peanuts to go around! If you get a chance to take a tour of a local shelling plant, please do so. It’s worth the trip!

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Tara Foods: Peanuts to Peanut Butter

Whether paired with jelly or chocolate, crunchy or creamy, peanut butter has been a food favorite since the late 1800s. Tara Foods in Albany specializes in peanut butter and extract manufacturing.

The plant has 241 product lines (Kroger and Custom) such as retail and industrial peanut butters,  extracts and flavoring, lemon & lime juice, and more. Tara Foods, which is one of Kroger’s manufacturing facilities, was built in 1977 and has received awards and contributed to charities such as the 2011 United Way campaign.

The plant is approximately 100,000 sq. feet of production, warehouse, and office space with 140 employees. On Thursday, tour attendees were able to visit the plant and see its operation such as peanuts being blanched as they came out of the roaster. Attendees also watched as jars and jars of peanut butter were produced and packaged. At the end of the tour, each attendee received a fresh jar of peanut butter that was made just 3 hours earlier. To better understand how peanuts in the field become jars of peanut butter in grocery stores, here is an outline covering how peanut butter is made:

  • First, after peanuts are planted after the late frost in April, the sprouts will make their way to the surface in about 10 days.
  • In about 120-160 days, the peanut plants are harvested (usually in September or October). After drying for 2-3 days, peanuts are picked off the vine by machinery.
  • Harvested peanuts are taken to buying stations where they are weighed, graded and inspected to determine quality and value. Shelling plants shell and clean the peanuts up to then be sent to peanut butter manufacturers.
  • After thorough inspection, the peanuts are roasted and then immediately cooled. The outer skin is removed through a process called blanching. The kernels are split, the hearts removed and the peanuts are cleaned and sorted a final time.
  • The peanuts are ground then with ingredients like salt, sweetener and stabilizer (to keep the oil from separating)

So, since peanut butter is one of America’s favorite foods then we wanted to share this whimsical little ditty while you watch peanuts going from planting to becoming peanut butter on your table.  This video is presented by the Georgia Peanut Commission in Tifton, Ga.

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Peanuts & Plant Mitchell

Plant Mitchell is an important stop on the Georgia Peanut Tour since attendees were also able to learn more about the ongoing research project at the plant through the University of Georgia. In the past Plant Mitchell included peanut hulls in their burn mixtures that fire the plant. For the future if the plant converts to a biofuel burning facility, then the biomass ash by-product that is left after the burn could potentially be used to spread on agricultural fields (including peanuts) within a 40 to 50 mile radius of the plant.

Glen Harris, soil scientist at the University of Georgia, discussed to tour attendees how farmers use gypsum on their peanuts. According to Harris, there are a number of different gypsum (aka landplaster) or calcium sulfate sources currently available to the Georgia peanut grower for use.  The origin of these materials can be quite different.  For example, US Gypsum’s “USG 500” is a naturally mined product.  PCS’s “wet bulk” is a by-product of the phosphorous fertilizer industry in Florida.  Both of these materials have been available to Georgia peanut growers for a long time.

“Smoke stack”, or more technically “flue gas desulfurized” (FGD) gypsum is relatively new and is a by-product of scrubbing sulfur dioxide out of emissions from coal burning power plants.  This material has been tested and is considered safe for use on peanuts.  In addition, FGD gypsum has been tested against other gypsum sources such as USWG 500 and PCS wetbulk in recent UGA field research trials and ha proven to be equally effective in terms of supplying calcium to peanuts to improve yield, grade and germination.

Scott Tubbs, University of Georgia cropping systems agronomist, is working on a three-year research project with row crops in cooperation with Georgia Power’s Plant Mitchell. Through the study Tubbs and other researchers are evaluating the use of wood ash as a lime substitute or soil amendment in the South. Generally, results from studies on traditional agricultural crops indicate that ash is an excellent lime substitute, reacting quickly with the soil and producing growth response as good as, or better, than agricultural lime. In Georgia (as well as in most southern states), wood ash is considered a safe and valuable soil amendment. Tubbs will compare the soil pH on a variety of cropping systems for three years. He also will study the type of wood ash used and ash rate. The application of wood ash will be made on Year 1, and the study will be carried out for three cropping years.

View the 2012 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.

Focus on Energy at Plant Mitchell

The next stop on the Georgia Peanut Tour focused on energy! Tour attendees visited Georgia Power’s Plant Mitchell which is located on 243 acres in Dougherty and Mitchell counties. Plant Mitchell is a 288, 200-kilowatt coal-fired and combustion turbine facility. Although small in comparison to some generating stations in the nation, Plant Mitchell provides enough electricity in six months to power a town the size of nearby Albany. At lunch on Thursday afternoon of the tour, attendees were able to learn more about this plant and its function and benefits to the community from John Crowell.

There are three units (generators) at the plant with different megawatt producing capabilities. Plant Mitchell also has three combustion turbines that use jet engines to turn the generators. These jet engines are the same engines used on many airplanes today. These generators are rated at 32 megawatts each.  Plant Mitchell operates on the same principles as other fossil-fueled electric generating plants. Coal that has been ground into a fine powder by a pulveriser is blown into a furnace-like device, called a boiler, and burned. The heat produced coverts water, which runs through a series of pipes in the boiler, to steam. The high-pressure steam turns the blades of a turbine, which is connected by a shaft to a generator. The generator spins and produces electricity.

Environmental compliance, economic effects, safety and health, and employee and community support are all observed by Plant Mitchell. The plant follows the strict environmental standards incorporated by Georgia Power, monitors all environmental trends, and makes continuous improvements to Plant Mitchell. The plant has had a significant effect on the economic vitality of Dougherty and Mitchell counties. Operated and maintained by Georgia Power, Plant Mitchell is a vital part of Georgia’s energy and economic growth. The work accomplished at the plant truly matches the company’s mission statement which is “Plant Mitchell will produce electricity in a safe, reliable and efficient manner through continuous employee involvement, therefore, maintaining respect as “A Citizen Wherever We Serve.”

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Mitchell County Ag Update

Max DeMott, Mitchell County Extension Coordinator, provided information to the Georgia Peanut Tour attendees regarding agriculture production in Mitchell County.  There were a total of 32,098 acres planted this year and seventy-seven percent of the peanuts are irrigated, with twenty-three percent being dryland. Concerning the estimated peanut production in tons for the county, he says that county averages around 4,000-4,500 lbs. This year will be much higher. Some dryland fields have already been harvested at 4,500 lbs. The major crops in Mitchell County include cotton, peanuts, field corn, pecans, sweet corn (in order of acres planted).  Insects and disease have been some of the most troublesome production issues for area farmers this year. However, DeMott says that so far the peanut crop in the county looks excellent.

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How do Farmers Know When to Dig Peanuts?

The question many folks on the 2012 Georgia Peanut Tour wonder is, “How do farmers know when to dig their peanuts?” Farmers utilize the hull scrape method and peanut profile board to determine when to dig and the resulting yield and grade means money to farmers. Farmers also have to look at the date the peanuts were planted and count the days to maturity. In the last 20 days of the production season peanuts gain in yield and some put on 30 percent of their yield in the last two to three weeks of the growing season. Farmers can’t just ride by their fields to know when to dig and they can’t put the peanuts back in the ground after digging. Peanuts are an indeterminate crop and some fields planted on the same date may mature at different times based on cultivar selection, soil type or weather patterns. The Peanut Profile Board was created more than 30 years ago. View this video below of Max DeMott II, Mitchell County Extension Agent, as he discusses how farmers determine when it is time to dig their peanuts.

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A New Twist on the Original PB&J – Try it Grilled

Each year on the Georgia Peanut Tour attendees are treated to Grilled PB&Js. Yes, that’s right – they are grilled! Thanks to Tyron Spearman of the National Peanut Buying Points Association for visiting with the group and grilling sandwich. According to Tyron the trick is to mix your peanut butter and jelly before spreading it on your bread. Then coat the outside with butter and grill just like you would a grill cheese sandwich. Check out this quick video highlighting a new twist to America’s favorite sandwich.

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Rain Is A Good Thing….So Is Irrigation!

Our second stop of the day on the Peanut Tour was in Camilla, Ga., at the Stripling Irrigation Research Park. The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences operates this state-of-the-art irrigation research and education center as part of their efforts in agricultural irrigation. We hopped on trolleys and took to the research plots to listen to the latest in irrigation research from the UGA scientists. When rain is not an option for our hard working farmers, we turn to irrigation and our researchers.

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