Farmer Profile: Elisha Barnes

Doing things ‘the old way’ is this Southampton, Virginia, peanut producer’s passion.


From articles in both Southern Living and Garden and Gun, to a feature on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Friday’s on the Farm” blog, to coverage in numerous news and food outlets, to people simply stopping at his farm to ask what he’s doing, Southampton County, Virginia, peanut farmer Elisha Barnes is much in demand these days. What has drawn the attention of both locals and iconic Southern lifestyle magazines? Is it a new type of equipment or innovative farming technique? Not quite. Then again, he is the only farmer in the United States doing what his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him did at harvest – shocking peanuts.

Preserving History

“Shocking” is what the process of putting peanuts and vines stacked up on a pole in the field for drying and curing is called. The result is a taste so different it is being offered by Hubbard Peanut Co., Sedley, Virginia, as a single-origin redskin peanut.

Barnes says, “It’s a blessing to me that Hubs has recognized what it is that I’m doing. I have a passion for the old ways.

“I want to maintain something so that generations now and ones that will come will be able to see a snippet of what used to be on a country farm,” he says.

For Barnes, pride comes from doing things the old-fashioned way.

“Tilling the soil teaches a spiritual lesson,” he says. “Do your part to invest in the land and the land will give you an increase.

“Some say, ‘He’s just a small farmer.’ But there’s a bountiful harvest of peanuts out there. We are a fourth-generation farm. My father, grandfather and great-grandfather all farmed peanuts.”

Barnes says as the only farm that shocks the peanuts like he does, people will ride by, see the peanuts and stop to ask him what he’s doing.

“In the 1930s and ‘40s, this was the landscape at this time of year,” he says of the peanut vines stacked on poles. “The reason that I do it is because it preserves where we came from and what got us here.”

Barnes says he appreciates that Hubs has recognized what he is doing to preserve history and is allowing this to be financially beneficial so that he can continue.

A Sweeter Taste

Even with the goal of preserving history, the peanuts Barnes collects through shocking provide a different taste for the consumer.

“We put the peanuts and vines on the poles for six weeks,” he says. “During that time, the peanut cures and allows the sweetness of the peanuts to collect.”

Barnes, who began working on his family’s peanut farm at age six, says peanuts cured this traditional way end up with a sweeter taste than those that are heat dried.

He also touts the germination rate compared to the other drying method.

“If you air dry them, the germination rate is 99.8%. With the profit margin we have in farming, you want every peanut you put in the field to produce,” he says.

Giving And Inspiring

Aside from peanuts, Barnes grows other crops, most of which he donates through a partnership with The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. He also manages Izzie’s Field, a farm-to-foodbank project funded by Kroger and supported by New Life Chuch, Pop Son Farm and Hubbard Peanut Co., which aims to address the historical barriers faced by socially disadvantaged farmers and strengthen the food system by providing fresh produce in the area.

In a world of rapid change, some traditions endure, thanks to the dedication of individuals like Elisha Barnes. As a fourth-generation farmer, Elisha honors the lost art of shocking peanuts, preserving a tradition that defines his heritage. Hubbard Peanut Company is proud to partner with Elisha on this highly limited “single origin” peanut crop.

As Hubbard Peanut Co., which has been in business for 65 years, says in their video introducing Barnes as the producer of their single-origin redskin peanuts, when Hubs first started, all peanuts were shocked and dried this way. Today, except for Elisha’s, none are.

“I am the only one who does this now because I want to preserve history,” Barnes says. “Maybe I’ll inspire somebody to keep this old history alive.” PG

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