October 2009
Featured Articles

Geneva Co. Couple Harvests, Then Simmers and Sells a True Southern Delicacy

   
 

Sharon and Charles Turner of Geneva County sell all their peanuts straight off their farm in the community of Black. The Turners pick, sort, bag and boil peanuts from late August to early October.

   

Boiled peanuts are a Southern delicacy if ever there was one. A simple crop, harvested, salted and simmered until tender, eaten one at a time, with juice to savor and shells to pitch makes them the perfect snack for lazy afternoon chats on the porch or passing around the bleachers at the big game. And for 12 years, Charles and Sharon Turner of Geneva County have been keeping locals stocked with their delicious boiled peanuts, cleaning and cooking their fresh green peanuts just a stone’s throw away from the field where they were picked.

"At one time, we were planting about 25 acres of peanuts, but we’re not getting any younger," joked Charles who said they now grow only about five acres of peanuts every year, and they’re all sold straight off their farm in the community of Black.

"This is our 12th year boiling and selling," he said, adding that many of their customers come back to their farm year after year, waiting eagerly for the day the Turners start selling each fall.

   

The Turners pick only a row or two of peanuts at a time throughout the season to ensure a steady supply of fresh peanuts for their customers. This load is the yield of a single swath through the peanut field, plowed and picked and brought directly to their barn for sorting and bagging.

 
   

"Probably 75 percent of the people who buy from us are repeat customers, and they are the ones who keep us going," said Charles.

But not all the Turners’ peanuts are boiled and sold. The picked peanuts are also packaged in custom-printed bags bearing the Turners’ ‘Peanuts and Produce’ logo, and kept cool and fresh for those customers who prefer to boil or parch their own.

"We don’t sell them by weight, but the bags hold about five and a half gallons of fresh peanuts. And people don’t realize it, but fresh peanuts are perishable, so we keep them in a large cooler after they’re bagged," Sharon explained.

Sharon and Charles grow a Virginia peanut variety they think is especially good for boiling.

"It’s a big peanut, and that’s what most people like. They’re not hard to get out of the shell like the little tiny ones that stick sometimes," she said.

The Turners said this year’s wet weather delayed their planting, so they were harvested later than usual. They began picking peanuts the end of August and will continue to pick through early October to keep a steady supply of fresh peanuts.

"We’ll plow and pick just a couple of rows a day until they’re gone," Charles said as he described the steps in their operation.

 

On the day of their first 2009 peanut boiling, Sharon Turner updates the sign in front of their barn so passersby know fresh boiled peanuts will soon be for sale.

"We try to get close to a 100 bags a day through the season. Usually we get 40 to 60 bags at a time, then go back and pick some more," he said.

Once the peanuts are plowed and picked, the Turners bring them to their barn where they are mechanically separated from any leaf or stem debris, then sorted by hand to remove any peanuts not making the grade. Those not bagged for sale as fresh peanuts are soaked in a solution that kills bacteria and cleans the shells before they are cooked.

For years the Turners cooked 15 to 20 quarts of peanuts at a time, but six years ago, they purchased a large restaurant-style commercial cooker they had customized to suit their needs.


Charles Turner uses a boat oar to stir the fresh peanuts in a cleaning solution before they are drained and transferred to their customized cooker.

Sharon Turner opens up their peanut cooker, a customized piece of restaurant equipment, for cleaning before she starts the first batch of 2009 peanuts.

After the large Virginia peanuts are picked and stem debris removed, they are bagged fresh or sorted again by hand before cleaning and boiling.

"We can cook twice the peanuts with half the propane we used to need, so that was a big savings to us," said Charles.

In addition to their peanut crop, the Turners have commercial cattle and a U-pick produce operation.

Charles and Sharon are both Geneva County natives and she said they graduated from high school together.

"We were high school sweethearts and the only couple in our class who married each other," Sharon said.

The couple moved to the farm in 1968, but Charles said members of his family have worked that land since 1948. And not only have previous generations farmed there in Black, but Sharon said their two daughters worked on the farm as they were growing up.

"They’ve both moved away, but they worked on this farm like Trojans, and still do when they come to visit, especially with the vegetables. Those two girls made a lot of college and spending-money by shelling peas to sell," Sharon said proudly.

With so many farmers trying to fit more and more into their operations, the Turners are happy they’ve been able to scale back but keep their farm going. They sell green, boiled or dry peanuts directly to the public Thursday through Saturday until noon.

"We appreciate the people who keep coming to our farm to do business with us," Charles said.

For more information about the availability of their peanuts or to get directions to their farm, call Charles or Sharon Turner at (334) 684-3008.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.