Peanut farmers may benefit from new industry

Published 11:00 pm Monday, July 4, 2011

The opening of a new peanut butter manufacturing company in Troy is good news for area peanut farmers.

“Pike County has a history in the peanut butter industry and we are excited to have Golden Boy Foods bring the peanut butter industry to Troy,” said Carl Sanders, president of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association. “This could be an encouragement to area farmers to put more acreage into peanuts and others to get into or back into peanut farming.”

The City of Troy and the Pike County Economic Development Corporation announced last week that Golden Boy Foods, a Canadian-based company, will make private label peanut butter at its new Troy location at the Campbell Enterprises facility in the Troy Industrial Park on the Henderson Highway.

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Richard Harris, company president and CEO, said that Golden Boy Foods will bring between 65 and 75 jobs to Troy by mid-2012 and 130 jobs by mid-2013.

One hundred million containers of peanut butter will be made at the plant each year.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said the new industry will be a huge economic boost to Troy and Pike County.

“Not only will Golden Boy Foods bring job opportunities to Troy, it will also provide opportunities for other businesses,” Lunsford said. “We have a container company right here in Troy and there is the possibility that the shelling plant in Goshen could reopen. There are other opportunities out there, including those for our peanut producers.”

Peanut production has been steadily declining in Pike County in the last several years and is down about 18 percent this year.

However, Pike County is in peanut butter country.

Sanders said that 60 percent of all peanuts that are grown for peanut butter are grown within a 100-mile radius of Dothan.

There are four types or varieties of peanuts, Runners, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia.

“Runners are used for peanut butter and that’s what we grow in this region,” Sanders said.

Pike County peanut farmer Mike Wilson said it remains to be seen if increased peanut production could be an offshoot of the new peanut butter industry in Pike County.

Peanuts are an expensive crop to put in the ground. The price of seeds is high as is everything that is needed to keep the peanuts growing to maturity, including pesticides, and herbicides.

“It depends on whether the price of peanuts goes up so the farmer can make a little profit,” Wilson said. “And, if cotton prices remain high, a lot of farmers will stay with cotton where you can get a bigger return. Right now, the peanuts are in the ground so we won’t see any difference this growing season. Having a peanut butter plant in Troy is a good thing. But, we just don’t know what effect it will have on local farmers yet.”

Pike County has a proud history in the peanut butter industry dating back to 1928 when J.D. Johnston made peanut butter for commercial use on a crude machine in a two-story wood frame building in Brundidge.

Before, long the Johnston Peanut Butter Mill was churning out more than two million jars of the popular foodstuff annually.

The Louis-Anne Peanut Butter Mill, owned and operated by brothers, Oscar and Grady Johnson, opened on the south of side on Brundidge in the early 1930s.

Together, the two mills helped sustain the Brundidge community during the Great Depression by providing jobs for the community and an inexpensive and tasty source of protein.