Virginia peanut yield sets national record in 2014

Published 4:08 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March is National Peanut Month, and Virginia growers — one local family in particular — have a reason to celebrate. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has stated recently that last year was a record-setting one in the commonwealth. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service have noted that the state’s peanut growers harvested 19,000 acres, with more than 82 million pounds of legumes. Moreover, Virginia even broke national records, having a yield of 4,350 pounds of peanuts per acre. The 2014 national average was a harvest of 3,932 pounds per acre.

In Southampton County, Walter F. Drake Jr. and his sons, Jason and Matt from Sunbeam, achieved a yield of 6,058 pounds per acre on 119.332 acres last year. The Drakes were named to the Three-Ton Club during a local ceremony presented by the Southampton County Extension Service. Drake Jr. added that the family also won on the state level.

The Drakes aren’t unfamiliar with such recognition. In 2012, they had the best yield in the county with 5,418 pounds per acre on 129 acres.

At the time of the most recent county award from the Virginia Peanut Growers’ Association, he said that “everything came together” for the farm’s success.

General factors for Drake and other producers included good growing conditions, improved seed varieties and longer rotations.

Dell Cotton of the Virginia Peanut Growers Association said this is the fourth year for a yield of peanuts more than 4,000 pounds to the acre.

“This is way higher than it used to be,” Cotton said then. “Ten years ago the state average was 3,000 pounds to the acre…This is something to be very proud of.”

Drake Jr. is also optimistic about this new growing season, which will get started in late March or early April. Meanwhile, he and his sons are busy with their livestock and some maintenance work.

But he doesn’t plan on significantly trying to top the record for the crop this year.

“We’ll probably try to hold steady. The reason is because there’s an oversupply of peanuts. We’ll be close to what we did last year,” Drake Jr. said.

Of course, the Drakes aren’t the only peanut farmers. Four other notable peanut producers in Southampton are:

• Davis and Sons Inc. with a yield of 5,845.6 pounds per acre on 195.3 acres;

• Joey Johnson Farms with a yield of 5,735 pounds per acre on 366.4 acres;

• Earl Johnson with a yield of 5,522.5 pounds per acre on 294.8 acres;

• B&R Farms with a yield of 5,739.6 pounds per acre on 114.7 acres.

“In addition to being a delicious and nutritious snack, peanuts are important to Virginia’s diverse agriculture industry,” said Sandra J. Adams, VDAC commissioner.

The Virginia peanut industry ranks 16th out of Virginia’s top 20 agricultural commodities in terms of cash receipts, according to the USDA and NASS.

“We congratulate the commonwealth’s peanut growers on 2014’s record-breaking harvest and look forward to celebrating National Peanut Month in March,” she added.

According to the National Peanut Board, peanuts are grown commercially in 15 U.S. states. The commonwealth is known for producing the large, premium Virginia type, which is prized for its exceptional taste, texture and size. Virginia boasts the ideal climate and soil conditions for peanut production in the southeastern part of the state, including Dinwiddie, Greensville, Isle of Wight, Prince George, Southampton, Surry, Sussex counties and the ity of Suffolk. While peanut farms are concentrated in Southeastern Virginia, specialty food companies across the state produce peanut-based food and confectionary items, including gourmet Virginia peanuts, in-shell peanuts, flavored peanuts and peanut butter, candies and snack foods. More than 30 of these companies have earned inclusion in the Virginia’s Finest trademark program and are listed on

Because March is designated as National Peanut Month, the Virginia Peanut Growers Association and Peanut Proud, the industry’s charitable organization, will donate more than 10,000 jars of peanut butter to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia to be distributed across the state. Because protein-rich peanut butter is a popular staple at food banks, the Virginia Peanut Growers encourage Virginians to join them in contributing to local food banks during National Peanut Month. For peanut facts and recipes, visit Virginia Carolinas Peanuts and the National Peanut Board online.