After leaving the peanut field, tour attendees traveled to Sylvester, Georgia, to visit the Birdsong Peanuts shelling facility. For five generations, Birdsong Peanuts has delivered naturally nutritious peanuts to manufacturers around the corner and around the world. Birdsong buys carefully selected peanuts directly from the farmers’ fields. The peanuts are then cleaned, shelled, sized and shipped in truckload lots to manufacturers who turn them into many popular food items sold across the globe, from peanut butter to peanut candies.
Birdsong serves its customers from five shelling plants. The plants are supported by many buying points and warehouses to store 2.4 billion pounds of Farmers Stock peanuts. Their cold storage facilities keep 250 million pounds of shelled peanuts in a controlled environment for their customers.
Video and photography is not allowed inside the plant; however, here is a short video showing a glimpse inside Birdsong’s Suffolk, Virginia, location.
Located in Camilla, Georgia, Hays LTI has been providing agricultural equipment for more than 50 years. A family-owned and operated business, Hays is best known for its dry fertilizer tenders and liquid tankers. Their equipment can be purchased, rented or both.
Every Hays-LTI product is hand-crafted on site in their state-of-the-art facility located in Camilla, Georgia. Their user-friendly design and attention to detail is what makes their equipment stand the test of time. From fertilizer plants to fields, their equipment moves liquid and dry fertilizer in over 42 states.
The company’s rental fleet includes more than 900 trailers that make up 40% of the company’s income. This option allows customers to have a known cost with no upkeep or repair.
The Hays Tender for dry fertilizer was developed in 2010 and has changed the market. This particular piece of equipment offers a lower trailer weight, equating to extra payload; greater slope on the hoppers for easier unload; covered hydraulic lines and hoses for protection from fertilizer; and all stainless steel augers, bearings, nuts and bolts. Hays employees can produce roughly seven tenders per week.
Hays’ current location was constructed in 2016 and contains all company operations on 60 acres. The location employs 65 people and generates better lead times, as well as the ability to grow the company’s product line and include other fertilizer hauling equipment.
Founder of Hays LTI, Mr. Ray Hays, started a sweet tradition after his retirement. When he called on customers, he wanted to take them something homemade, so Hays began baking homemade pecan pies for Mr. Hays to share. His daughter, Donna, said he never left town without an ice chest full of pecan pies. When he stopped to visit customers, he enjoyed giving out a homemade pecan pie, piece of literature, a business card and good handshake. Today in the Hays kitchen, they make about 600 pies a month to share with friends, vendors and customers. Tour attendees were able to have a slice on their visit, as well.
Donna Hays Stewart, co-owner of Hays LTI, attributes the following life lessons to what she feels help make their family business successful:
Be on time
Do things right the first time
Take pride in what you do
Protect your name
Learn from your mistakes, try not to make them again
Show appreciation and stay humble
Believe that you can and never give up – don’t quit
Value people, all people
Build strong relationships
Treat people right
Love what you do and trust God
Check out this video showcasing their products from the ground up!
While at the Sunbelt Ag Expo, local county Extension agents, Sydni Ingram and Kale Cloud, presented a Harvest Maturity Clinic for tour attendees. Farmers utilize the hull scrape method or pod blasting and the Peanut Profile Board to determine if peanuts have reached optimum maturity for harvest. Digging peanuts is one of the biggest decisions farmers make each year. The maturity of a peanut affects the yield, flavor, grade and shelf life. Farmers can lose as much as 500 to 700 pounds per acre in fields if peanuts are harvested too early or too late. During the tour several county agents set up stations to show attendees how to use the Peanut Profile Board.
Maule Air S.T.O.L. is an aircraft manufacturer located in Moultrie, Georgia. Maule Air Inc. is owned and operated by the Maule family. Some of the Maule family, Brent Maule and his nephew Tyler Wilkes, presented their purpose and two of their planes to 2022 Georgia Peanut Tour attendees. Brent and Tyler are fourth and fifth generation aircraft manufacturers for Maule Air Inc. Maule Air Inc. take pride in the fact that their planes are take off and land within 100 feet. Their short take off and landing make them popular within the farming community. Maule also provide room in their planes to resemble the same effect of a trunk or truck bed. Along with many other implements, Maule provides tools for landing in most locations of the world. For example, they have floats for landing in water, sleds for snow, and wheels for dry land.
Attendees were able to observe the planes Brent and Tyler brought to exhibit. Brent and Tyler, also, answered questions any of the attendees had.
Chip Blalock, Executive Director of the Sunbelt Ag Expo, shared the purpose of the facility with 2022 Georgia Peanut Tour attendees. The Sunbelt Ag Expo is a trade show that focuses on agriculture at Spence Field in Moultrie, Georgia. Also known as “North America’s Premier Farm Show,” Sunbelt Ag Expo has more than 1,200 vendors and exhibitors each year. All industry members and farmers are welcomed and encouraged to attend.
The Expo sits on a 100-acre exhibit site, also neighboring a 530-acre working research farm. On this farm, Sunbelt does agronomic research on cotton, peanuts, corn, sorghum and Bermuda grass. The exhibit area includes indoor and outdoor facilities. In these facilities, visitors can observe educational, entertaining seminars and demonstrations presented by the vendors. Representatives of various companies are always available to answer questions about the equipment, supplies or chemicals they sell.
The 2022 Sunbelt Ag Expo will be on October 18-20. This year’s theme is “The New Era of Agriculture.”
Upon leaving the Georgia Department of Ag Seed Lab, the Peanut Tour caravan headed over to Kelley Manufacturing Co. in Tifton. Kelley Manufacturing Co. has been building dependable equipment for progressive farming for more than 45 years. Their Tifton site occupies 28 acres, with 193,000 square feet under roof and more than 210 employees year round.
Since 1966, Kelley Manufacturing Co. has been committed to their original philosophy of maintaining integrity, quality and craftsmanship. Their engineers are continually researching and developing fresh and innovative products to help increase the farmer’s profits and productivity.
Kelley Manufacturing’s product line is complete in that they build equipment for every phase of the farming process – from initial ground preparation through the field cleanup after harvest. Few manufacturers offer such a wide range of products to their customers. KMC employs some of the top engineers and specialists in the manufacturing process and hand-builds every component and machine sold.
During the KMC stop, peanut tour attendees were able to hear more about the history of KMC, participate in a tour of the plant showcasing how the equipment is manufactured, as well as a hands-on tour of peanut equipment!
After seeing how peanuts are harvested from the field, the Georgia Peanut Tour attendees stopped at Tifton Peanut Company to see what happens once the peanuts leave the farm. Tifton Peanut Company has six locations in Tifton and offers multiple services for the peanut farmer. They are a shelling plant, seed treatment facility, buying point and warehousing facility.
Tour attendees arrive at Tifton Peanut Company.
Peanut arrive to Tifton Peanut Company on wagons or semi-trailers.
Peanuts arrive from the farm to Tifton Peanut Company via wagons or semi-trailers. If needed, the peanuts will go through a cleaner where dirt, rocks, sticks, etc. are removed. The moisture of the peanuts is then read and if needed, the peanuts may go into a dryer if moisture is above 10.5 percent. This threshold is determined by USDA; however, Tifton Peanut Company prefers to dry their peanuts to nine percent to prevent any storage issues throughout the year. A flexible duct extending from a fan is attached to the front or back of a semi-trailer or wagon, where air that is no more than 15 degrees Fahrenheit above ambient temperature and no higher than 95 degrees Fahrenheit is pushed through the peanuts to dry them.
Peanuts are dried if needed.
The trailers the peanuts arrive on are sent to a mechanical sampler, where wagons are probed eight times and a semi-trailer is probed 15 times. In semi trailers, this equates to roughly a 150-200 lb. peanut sample. From there, a 3,600 gram sample goes into a riffle divider that divides the sample in half. One half is an official grade sample that goes into the grading room and the other as a “just in case sample” to double-check accuracies of the grading or to use in case something happens with the initial grade sample.
Peanuts are sampled for grading under this shed.
Tifton Peanut Company offers green grading, also known as high moisture grading. This allows peanuts to be graded up to 18 percent moisture, which results in a deduction in grade and value and requires the load to go back on a dryer; however, the peanuts are not required to be re-graded. Check out the video below to see how the grading process works.
For seed treatment, peanut seed is shelled and stored in 2,200 lb. totes. A 5 lb. sample is retained out of that and sent off for germination where it has to germ to at least 75 before it can be put on the market. Tifton Peanut Company does not save anything unless it’s 85 or above. Once it has a germination, they will work through Georgia Crop Improvement to get tags for that lot. Each lot is 45,000 lbs. From there, the peanut seed goes through a shaker to eliminate any splits. It then receives a fungicide treatment. There are several different types of treatment available. Tifton Peanut Company uses a polymer treatment they feel better protects the peanut and allows them to color it for identification. After being treated, the peanuts go back in the 2,000 lb. tote bags or 50 lb. bags and return to storage until farmers are ready to purchase for planting season. Planting season for peanuts begins in the April/May timeframe each year. Good quality seed is critical for peanut farmers. And a 4 oz. seed treatment can be the determining factor on whether a crop is successful.
On Georgia Peanut Tour 2022, attendees visited the Georgia Department of Ag Seed Lab. Here, techs tests all types of peanuts from December to the first of May. Over 12,500 peanut samples are tested in that time period annually. Their team work vigorously each year to finish that amount of peanut samples in that short of an amount of time.
At the Ag Seed Lab, located in Tifton, Georgia, three different types of peanut seed samples are obtained, official, service, and certified. The official samples are pulled by the state inspectors whom work for the Department of Agriculture. The service samples are given by farmers or gardener needing testing on their seed (a service provided by the Ag Seed Lab at no charge to the farmer and gardeners). The certified samples are in conjunction with Georgia Crop Improvement Association, who manage the certification program for all crop kinds. Each sample type is performed in order to insure a top quality product in the market place for the consumers in the agriculture industry for the state of Georgia.