If You Build It, They Will Come

By Amanda Huber

Organic peanut production continues to be researched and improved upon in both small plot and on-farm trials. However, I can tell you that I am hesitant to write about it. Last year I did, and later in the year, I got an email from a producer who had organic peanuts sitting in cold storage, but had no where to sell them.

She went on to tell me that one potential customer had become too wary of the peanut market because of the salmonella scare that was still fresh on the minds of buyers. Another potential buyer said they would take the peanuts – if the producers could get the peanuts to Texas, which was not much of an option, even last summer. The producer said she and her husband eventually sold some through the conventional market – for the conventional price – and then roasted small batches and sold those in a local market for a little more.

Mark Boudreau, a public service assistant with the University of Georgia Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and one of the project leaders for an organic production study, which can be found on page 20, says that organic peanut production in the Southeast is inevitable. I hope he’s right, but it wouldn’t take long sitting on thousands of pounds of peanuts for a producer to decide it is not worth the loss.

This whole dilemma reminds of the classic 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.” In fact, you probably didn’t even finish the headline without remembering exactly where that famous line came from. “If you build it, they will come.” That’s what the voices say to Kevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, in the movie. All he had to do was plow under his corn and build the baseball diamond. But he had to have the faith that it would work.

I know that it takes a lot more than faith to build a shelling plant and other parts of infrastructure for organic peanuts, but maybe one day someone will figure out a way to make it work. I think when they do, they will find producers who are ready to supply the peanuts and can make the yield necessary.