Farmer’s Bank supports peanut film

Published 6:53 pm Friday, January 6, 2017

Stephen Faleski

Special to the News-Herald

For the past few years, a committee of mostly historians and farmers from Isle of Wight, Surry, Sussex, and Southampton counties and the city of Suffolk have been working for peanuts, literally.

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Now, their donation-funded documentary on the history of peanut farming in Western Tidewater is nearly complete, and on Thursday, they received a $10,000 donation from Farmer’s Bank in Windsor to help get it finished.

The documentary, “The Peanut Story… in a nutshell,” began as a project of the Western Tidewater Council for the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities approximately three years ago. It features interviews with lifelong area farmers, who discuss how peanut farming has changed through the years.

“This is an exciting, colorful story about our region, which is, among other things, where the iconic Mr. Peanut was born 100 years ago,” said Sue Woodward, who serves on the committee overseeing the documentary’s production.

For most of the committee members, the documentary is a labor of love, as many of them have personal ties to the peanut industry. Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors Chairman Rex Alphin, for instance, is a farmer, and his father, Bob, is interviewed in the documentary.

“It’s so crucial to the economy; peanuts were the main crop for years,” said committee member Bess Richardson. “My father was a peanut farmer. I grew up on a farm.”

The film is being produced by Amy Drewry of Rock Eagle Productions, who has produced several other documentaries for public television. She is married to a former peanut farmer.

Farmers Bank Chief Executive Officer Dick Holland, who presented the check to Woodward, said that it was the bank’s way of giving back and honoring the industry that helped it get started.

“We’ve been around for 97 years,” Holland said. “Farmers have contributed heavily to the success of Farmer’s Bank, so we felt we should give back. Farmers are the best people you could work with. They’re honest hardworking people.”

The committee expects to complete production of the documentary in the next 12 to 18 months.

“We’re still raising money for it,” Drewry said. “We have to fundraise before we can film.”