Working For Peanuts: From Field to Food #TXPeanutTour17

Texas peanut Tour 2017 Peanut Plant uncovered

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that until a few weeks ago the extent of my peanut farming knowledge was what I learned of George Washington Carver in elementary school history lectures. Given that peanut butter is a staple on our weekly grocery list, I was excited to receive an invitation by the Texas Peanut Producers Board to come visit several cities in west Texas to meet with current peanut farmers, tour their fields and expand my knowledge of the peanut plant.

Texas is the second largest peanut-producing state in the nation. Texas farmers produce hundreds of millions of peanuts every year and ship them around our state, the country and the world. The Texas Peanut Producers Board was founded in 1969 and has worked tirelessly since then to support research programs, provide education, develop markets and promote what they believe are the best peanuts in the world.

Day 1 : Welcome To Lubbock!

Upon arriving to the Lubbock airport, I was greeted by the shuttle driver to the Overton Hotel  who was waiting out front. I highly recommend staying here if you are in the Lubbock area. It’s the first and only four star AAA rated hotel in west Texas.

overton hotel room

I arrived early in the day so I met up with a friend to do a little sightseeing. We had a fabulous time touring the city and even though my first thought was “What’s in Lubbock?” I can TOTALLY recommend everything we did. It’s worth the trip! I’ll link up with everything we did and an itinerary of what do in Lubbock in a future post here.

That evening we were treated to a fabulous three course dinner of peanut inspired dishes at Las Brisas Steakhouse crafted by Chef Matt Lopez.

Las Brisas Texas Peanut Tour menu

Texas Peanut Tour Las Brisas

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 las brisas Tacos

Texas Peanut Tour Las Brisas Entree

Day 2: Out in the Fields and Vineyards

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 in the field

This day began early with a drive out to meet with the farmers in the field. We met up with Mason Becker, a multi-generational peanut farmer and advocate for agriculture and farming through his work with the West Texas Young Farmers Association. First it was time to really get to know the peanut plant. Did you know peanuts grow underground? If I’m being honest this was the first time I had ever seen them pulled right out of the ground before.

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 Peanut Plant

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 Virginia Peanuts

The variety you see above is the Virginia peanut. It’s one of the largest and most recognizable. Could you identify the 4 main types of peanuts? Well thanks to the Texas Peanut Board Tour, now I can. Here’s a chart so you’ll be up on your peanut name game too!

Types of Peanuts

 

Mason was open and honest with us about the current state of farming in America especially as it relates to peanut farming. We discussed the truths and myths of farming. He shared his personal story and what kind of commitment it takes to be out in the fields providing and nurturing the crops that will be harvested to stock store shelves. We learned just how important it is to support our local farmers and how difficult it can be to get into the business of farming. It takes a lot of financial backing, education and the ability to employ skilled workforce. As it turns out, finding labor with the skills required to farm in today’s fields isn’t as easy to come by as you may have thought.

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 Mason Becker

“My first tractor cost 3x the amount of my first house. Most years you’re just trying to break even.” If you haven’t gotten out in a field where your food is being grown or talked to the people who grow it recently, I highly recommend it putting that on your list. I know for me it had been too long between visits. It will give you a great appreciation for what you choose to put on your plate and they’ll be glad you came.

Our time in the fields was incredibly insightful and Mason was great to answer any questions we had. I learned a lot but there was still more to see on the tour. Following the life of the peanut, our next stop on the tour was the Birdsong Shelling facility. After the peanut is planted, grown, and harvested it comes here.

Texas Peanut Tour 2017 BirdSong

We saw the storage facilities, that house millions of tons of unshelled peanuts and geared up to walk through the loud shelling facility. It’s quite a process! Some areas were very loud, some extremely cold, and others quite dusty from all the shelling that was happening. We also met with the employees in quality control. They are checking around 1 million pounds of peanuts a day! It was truly amazing to think this location in Brownsville, TX provides peanuts for a majority of the national brands you and I enjoy. If you’ve ever eaten a Mars or Hershey bar with peanuts chances are you’ve eaten a peanut from this facility.

Time to Wine Down : Trilogy Cellars

Uncork and and Unwind Trilogy Cellars

It had been full day of learning, working and touring. While almost everyone can appreciate a glass of wine midday this location was well thought out. You see, most wine makers and grape growers are also peanut farmers. Peanuts are a fantastic rotation crop because of the nutrients they put back into the soil. Lots of crops take from the soil but peanuts give back.

We were scheduled to enjoy an outdoor patio lunch at Trilogy vineyards catered by Farm to Fork Gastro Truck. This is not your typical street foods. Farm to Fork is gourmet street food utilizing local sustainable ingredients. The Farm to Fork experience is crafted by Chef Antonio Pina and supplied by Pereira pastures dairy. They are all about supporting local farmers.

Farm to Fork Lunch

Korean Fried Chicken Farm To Fork

Trilogy Cellars

While we dined under the warm Texas sunshine and sipped on the wine that grew on the vines just feet away from us, Steve Newsome and Chace Hill retold the story of how Trilogy came to be. Trilogy Cellars, located in Levelland, Texas, is a family owned winery. In short Trilogy is three families, three vineyards united in one vision. That vision is more than just making great wine but after a tasting its easy to tell they excel at their craft. Each glass poured easily rivaled Napa. I joined the wine club on the spot. It was that good.

There is just something about hearing the stories of a person’s life and passion over a glass of wine. It was an honor to be there that day and even more so to have the opportunity to visit the vineyards right outside Steve’s personal home.

Trilogy vineyard tour

Grape growing 101 Texas Peanut Tour 2017

Grapes on the vine Trilogy Cellars

After visiting the fields, vineyards and dining establishments of West Texas it was time to return home. I had a wonderful visit and left with an open invitation to come back any time. Lubbock has given itself the moniker of “the friendliest city in Texas” and I think I’d have to agree. Everyone was incredibly welcoming. I’ll be sure to plan a trip back soon. Until then I won’t pick up a jar of peanut butter without thinking of the time spent here. I definitely won’t ever take for granted the farmers who work so diligently to produce these crops.

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  1. This is such a great post and I really love learning the story about the peanuts and the farmers. It’s incredible all of the hard work that goes into peanut farming and farming in general.
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