Florida Farmers Field Peanut Belts Southernmost Loop

As the seagull flies, 35 Farms lies just seven miles directly east of the Gulf of Mexico.

Published on: Apr 23, 2012

It's located at 29° 11'34.80" N by 82° 32'53.46" W. If you don't know, but you probably do, that's a global positioning system coordinate, a way to precisely pinpoint points on the globe. Who cares? Well, this particular "X" hovers over a spot one mile south of Needmore Barn on 35 Farms about 15 miles south of Williston, Fla. It's the southern-most point of the southern-most field farmed by Andy and Scott Robinson and it marks the southern-most loop of the U.S. commercial peanut belt, give or take a few inches, maybe a foot. OK, maybe a mile or so, but it's as close to the southern- most loop as one meager farm reporter could find.

Florida Farmers Field Peanut Belts Southernmost Loop
Florida Farmers Field Peanut Belts Southernmost Loop

A few growers have tried producing commercial peanuts farther south, once a few years ago as far south as Lake Okeechobee. But the distance to haul the nuts to market, so to speak, didn't prove to be sustainably profitable.

Just a bit farther south of 35 Farms, which the Robinsons farm in partnership with former University of Florida football player and NFL star Neal Anderson, (his number was 35) cattle or small horse farms quilt the land, leaving few acres to support large-scale row crop production, Andy said.

"The infrastructure just isn't there to support much peanut production farther south of here and land availability is limited and a lot of it isn't suited well for peanut production," Andy said.

What is suited for peanut production, almost perfect for it, is 35 Farms. Its soft, loamy sandy soil begs to be planted in peanuts. But venture too far from it, and the land becomes less suited. Just north, as you get closer to Williston, the soil gets heavier, less friendly to peanuts.

As the seagull flies, 35 Farms lies just seven miles directly east of the Gulf of Mexico. Around Cedar Key the coast cuts in for several miles. One can figure that coast used to spill a bit farther inland, and 35 Farms was likely once part of an ancient sandy shoreline.

And what that sandy soil allows is a slate every year for the Robinsons to craft their peanut crop, which is all they plant, peanuts behind peanuts each year, without rotating with any other crop. They have one field that has had peanuts back to back since 1991.

"For a long time, this area was where a lot of the seed peanuts where planted each year, but in the late 80s more and more commercial production started," said Scott. "It is still an area that concentrates on growing good quality peanuts."

And the area is typically the first to kick off the U.S. peanut season. The Robinsons started planting March 19 and will stretch planting their 2,500 acres this year over an 8-week period. A neighbor beat them to the punch this year and planted peanuts a few days earlier.

The earliest they have ever planted was March 13. They've picked peanuts as early as the third week of July. Other parts of the peanut belt may not start harvest until late September or even October in some years.

They own the peanut shelling facility in Williston, too. And admittedly "sort of wear two hats" in the peanut industry, Scott said, one as a grower and the other as a buyer. Due to the fewest planted acres in recent memory, overall peanut production last year was low in the country, much lower than demand. The U.S. peanut supply pipeline is tight right now.

"I know a lot of people will be ready to get this season started," Scott said. "We'll see what happens."

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