Top peanut producer surprised by yield

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 5, 2009

When John Crumpler harvested his 2008 peanuts in October, he knew he had raised a lot.

However, he had no idea that his yield – 5,686 pounds – was the largest not only in Suffolk, but in the entire state.

“I knew I had a good crop for the city of Suffolk,” he said. “State definitely was a surprise.”

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Crumpler has been in the farming industry since 1985. He started out in the fertilizing business, then got out of it, and now is in the peanut business. He and his business partner, Bobby Rountree, farm about 1,300 acres between the villages of Holland and Whaleyville. Last year, they grew about 133 acres of peanuts, with the remainder hosting corn, soybeans and wheat.

Crumpler’s high yield was not a fluke – peanut growers across the entire nation experienced a bumper crop of peanuts in 2008, one of the best crops ever for peanuts, said Crumpler’s buyer, Billy Gwaltney.

Crumpler, for his part, said he was surprised that he had the highest yield because he uses no irrigation system – the only water the peanuts get is from rain.

Gwaltney is a sheller and an authorized buyer for a peanut company. Crumpler sells the majority of his peanuts to Gwaltney, who then processes, shells and ships the peanuts to the peanut company. Some of Crumpler’s peanuts typically go into products such as candy and peanut butter, while the rest are shelled and stored to be seed peanuts – the peanuts that the farmers will use to plant the 2009 crop.

“It’s a pretty good system, the way it works,” Gwaltney said.

The peanut market has experienced several challenges this year, Gwaltney and Crumpler said. First, the high yield of peanuts, while good, has led to a reduction in prices. America is now importing peanuts from foreign nations, which was unheard of just a few years ago. New government regulations have reduced the aid available to assist peanut farmers with capital investments. To top all of that off, a peanut salmonella scare that originated at a warehouse of a company that produced less than 3 percent of the nation’s peanut products led to a sharp decline in sales of peanut products. Crumpler and Gwaltney described it as just one more thing in their business they have no control over.

“That’s what’s so frustrating,” Gwaltney said. “It’s just an awful, awful thing to happen to us.

“We need to focus on quality products. That’s all we can do to influence it.”

Crumpler added that he chooses to work with well-respected, established companies for that very reason.

“We know that they’re going to maintain a high quality throughout the process,” he said.

Crumpler said he was able to bring in such a large harvest because the weather was just right this year, and that he has good neighbors that helped him plant seeds and bring in the harvest.

“He does what needs to be done to raise a quality product,” Gwaltney said.