On November 8, 2018, Dell Cotton introduced our VALOR Class to the world of Virginia Peanuts. Dell Cotton is the manager of the Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association and executive secretary of the Virginia Peanut Growers Association. Virginia at one time had around 75,000 acres in 2002 with a government quota system much like tobacco. The quota was removed and now Virginia grows 23,000 acres. Dell commented that the quality of peanuts have increased due to the removal of the quota system and growers are series about growing peanuts. There are four types of peanuts with much of the production focused on Virginia Peanuts and runner Peanuts. Virginia type peanuts are the larger size used mainly for peanuts in shell and gourmet and runner peanuts are smaller and the most common peanut used for peanut butter and candy. Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina grow majority of the Virginia peanut acreage.
Virginia has a long history with peanuts and we were lucky enough to visit Birdsong Peanuts! Birdsong Peanuts is a family owned business that is 5 generations and 104 years old. We met Charles Birdsong Jr. who is the CEO at their corporate headquarters. Birdsong Peanuts has 85 buying points in 11 states and 6 shelling plants.
We were able to tour their shelling facility in Suffolk with Mr. Birdsong as he explained the process of raw in shell peanuts coming in to the facility to the point of peanuts leaving to clients. The facility we visited separates sizes and cleans the peanuts. Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has a lab on the facility to test quality.
We were able to see the cold storage room and talk about their traceability systems. Mr. Birdsong shared with us that the company can store 250 million pounds of shelled peanuts throughout the year. Overall, we enjoyed our tour greatly!