Peanut farmers get cooperative - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Peanut farmers get cooperative

November 7, 2002

TIFT CO. - It's an age old system, South Georgia peanut farmers harvest their fields, put their raw peanuts in storage, and look for a Shelling company that's willing to buy. Then the sheller prepares peanuts for the products we eat, seeing a whole lot more of the profits. But it's a system that's about to change.

"I feel like it's time we all come together to make things more profitable farming in South Georgia," Carol Coarsey said. 

Farmers are pooling their money to eliminate the middle man and be able to take their peanuts right to the manufacturer.

"This is a very happy day for peanut farmers in South Georgia and the Tift area," Don Koehler said. 

What farmers are buying into is an idea, an idea that building a giant sheller in a pecan orchard will make a world of difference in their ability to still make it in farming.

"I sold last year for $355 a ton, we can't grow for that and survive," Co-op President Irvin Branch said. "We got to do something,  feel that coming together is way to do that."

So the farmers will build the $17 million shelling facility in time for harvest next fall, but to do it the cooperative will need to pool $6.8 million by year's end and they already have 100 willing farmers.

"Since I've been farming, best opportunity I've seen for farmers to help themselves add value to their crops," Coarsey said.

The Tift Development Authority helped the farmers buy the 42 acre plot of land with a $200,000 grant. Each share gives the farmer the right to shell a ton of peanuts, plus get dividends from the Cooperative's profits.