I feed my children Peanut Butter on a daily basis. It is a great source of protein and fat to help their little brains grow. I didn’t know this, but there are 100’s of peanut varieties. Each year, new varieties of genetically modified peanut seeds hit the market.
Peanuts are hard to grow because of disease and pests, there is also 150 days from planting seeds to digging them up. On the conventional market peanuts come “round-up ready,” to help manage these issues.
I wanted to source peanuts and peanut butter that I could trace back to the farm. Wasn’t easy! Georgia Organic Peanut Association (GOPA) founded by a hand-full Georgia Farmers have dedicated themselves to changing the mentality of farming peanuts in Georgia. I was able to get one of the founding farmers on the phone, Sedrick, owner of Rowe Organic Farm.
GOPA started out with three varieties of peanuts. Of the three varieties tested, runner peanuts responded the best to organic farming practices. In 2018 GOPA was harvesting 100 acres of peanuts, in 2019 300 acres, and in 2020 500 acres. The demand for Georgia organic peanuts is growing.
In Organic, farmers can till for weed control. Some of the farmers in GOPA use tillage to clean the land and others have adopted no-till practices. All have the intention to build organic matter and biodiversity in the soil.
GOPA is a mixed bag of tillers and no-tillers. Conservation agriculture: no-tillage, cover crops and crop rotation. All farmers use cover crops, and crop rotation. The three principles of conservation agriculture are necessary to fix nutrients, sequester carbon and build diversity of micro-organism. It is true that any tillage disrupts the structure of the soil releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. The implementation of testing soil helps the farmers manage soil health and make the best decisions to yield the best results. Some other cool practices employed by the farmers is planting peanuts into the last harvest (like wheat), and planting extra seeds to help elbow out weeds.
When I asked if organic peanuts were healthier to eat. It was a enthusiastic yes. Organic peanuts typically have a higher protein. How do peanuts achieve a higher protein? From the uptake of available nutrients in the soil. Amazing, right! Peanuts are an excellent example that soil health does in fact produce healthier foods.
Peanuts harvested from conventional monocultures are deprived diversity of micro-organism, worms, nutrients, carbon and more; therefore they yield less protein. Buying conventional peanuts also leads to the consumption of toxic residues from the over spraying of synthetic chemicals. The advice from Sedrick, pay attention to the food you eat. If you are sick, test for toxins in the blood.
Peanuts are sold on the commodity circuit, whether you buy organic or conventional. 50% of the peanuts consumed in the United States come from overseas. When processed in America (organic or not) they are misleadingly sold to us as if they were grown from our soil. The freshness and mold issues peanuts face is primarily a problem of monocultures and big commodities.
It is amazing to me that we feed our children something with chemical residue. Buying organic peanuts and peanut butter is a no brainer. But, how could I take it a step further?
The best way to control the freshness of peanut butter is to make it from scratch. Thankfully, its easy, one ingredient and a food processor. The only place I found GOPA peanuts and hand made peanut butter made with GOPA peanuts was Koinonia Farm in Georgia.
This was a stimulating conversation and it further reinforced the importance of leaning into the consumer-farmer relationship. Farmers like, Sedrick, care about health: of the soil and the people eating his food.