My Generation

The Only Peanut Farmer in Illinois

With the help of a friend to the south, my six-year-old is growing peanuts. Also, please send 120 days of warm weather.

About a year ago, our oldest won a bag of peanuts, because she guessed there were about 400 peanuts in the bag. So we were eating a lot of peanuts. And at about the same time, my colleague at our Southern Farmer magazine, Pam Golden, ran a cover on her magazine showing a peanut farmer pulling a plant out of the ground. I showed it to the kids so they could see how the peanuts actually grow beneath the ground.

Nathan, 5 at the time and ever the farmer, commenced to asking a whole lot of questions about how peanuts are grown: How do they pwant them? How do they combine them? How do they cwean the dirt off of them? Is there a machine for that? How, why, what for and how come?

I just thought I was showing them a picture. I had no idea how to answer any of that. So I called Pam.

Now, Miss Pam took a shine to Nathan a couple years ago at the Farm Progress Show employee supper, when he proceeded to sit quietly and politely and eat his weight in BBQ chicken legs. And then he said "please" and "thank you" and Miss Pam – the mother of her own strapping 21-year-old son - was hooked. See kids, manners do pay off!

So in the course of our call, Pam said she'd send Nathan some peanuts to plant the next year.

Fast forward. Last week, this arrived.

Nathan. Was. Psyched.

It came complete with directions from the Southern Peanut Growers, and a note from Miss Pam:

Dear Nathan:
Dr. John Beasley says to go ahead and plant your peanut seed now. When it gets close to harvest, I will send you a guide to help you figure out when they are ready.
Good luck! Miss Pam

The sun was shining, so we headed out to the garden.

Nathan helped make the row. (a side note: I wonder if our corner post is really that crooked? Will have to check that out. Let's hope it was just my inability to hold the camera straight.)

The peanuts looked like, well, peanuts. Not yet roasted, obviously, so a little lighter in color than what we're used to.

Into the ground they went. The instructions said to plant them 1-2 inches deep. Water regularly, but don't water log. I wasn't sure how far apart to plant them, so we went about 8 inches, and made two rows about 20-24 inches apart. Yes, we are corn farmers, why do you ask? Crossing our fingers that this works, or is even vaguely correct.

I showed Nathan on his finger about how far 1-2 inches is, and he very (very, very) carefully covered them up. We planted on May 12, and got a lovely steady rainfall the following weekend. According to our directions, we should see sprouts in 14 days and blooms in 45. The peanuts will form in 90 days and should be mature by 120 days. That puts us at a mid-September harvest.

The note adds that peanut plants will require four months of 70 degrees F or higher with at least five hours of full sun per day to produce peanuts. So we'll see and we're hoping for the best. The only peanut farmer in Illinois is counting on a bumper crop!

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