Top peanut producer

Published 9:07 am Wednesday, February 23, 2011

DREWRYVILLE—A fourth-generation Drewryville farm was named Virginia’s top peanut producer for 2010.

Cedar View Farms, operated by brothers Jeffery, Mark and Chris Pope, raised 4,824 pounds of peanuts per acre, said Dell Cotton, executive director for the Virginia Peanut Growers Association in Franklin.

“I was glad someone from Southampton County was able to win it this year, particularly with how bad the year was,” Cotton said referring to the summer’s record-high heat and drought.

“Jeffrey (Pope) is very fortunate in that he has some irrigation,” Cotton said.

The Popes plant about 350 acres of peanuts annually; the award was based on what was produced on 115 acres, Cotton said.

“We were lucky in the fact that we have the ability to irrigate a large portion of our land,” Pope said. “The drought didn’t affect us as much as some of our neighbors.”

The farm’s main source of water is a 50-acre pond.

In addition to irrigation, Pope attributed last year’s peanut yield to “improved chemistry.”

“We really have improved,” he said. “We now control diseases that we weren’t able to before. There’s new products on the market.”

In years past, Cedar View made better yields, but a lot of times didn’t finish processing and measuring the entire crop in time for the contest.

“This year it happened,” Pope said.

He’s optimistic about the upcoming season.

“The peanut market looks pretty good,” Pope said. “Honestly, the acres will compete with cotton acres, but it’s still not at a level that would bring a new producer into the market.”

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said last week that cotton acreage in Virginia is expected to increase by nearly 27 percent in 2011, from 82,250 acres in 2010 to an estimated 105,000 acres. Cotton is getting a modern-day record-high price.

The Popes also operate Royal Oak Peanuts, a gourmet line of peanuts offered online, wholesale and in catalogs.

Cox Farms from Surry County won last year’s contest. Cox Farms yielded 5,430 pounds of peanuts per acre.

The last winner for Southampton County was Mike Drake with Sandy Ridge Farms, which yielded 5,150 pounds per acre.