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“We’re all peanuts this year,” says Hamilton, Miss., producer Don Self, who is also Mississippi's representative on the National Peanut Board. “Even though we rotate religiously between cotton, corn, and peanuts, the $750 per ton contract price at the start of the season was just too good not to take advantage of this year."
DON SELF, from left, wife Lisa, father Dennis, and son-in-law Hank Harrington were among the first to grow peanuts in northeast Mississippi. An attractive early-season contract led them to plant the crop on all their acreage this year.
Weed control program
“With our conventional tillage program, we don’t do any burn down. We disk, do-all, run a hipper-roller, and plant. We apply Prowl H20 and Valor behind the planter, and in certain areas add Strongarm at the one-half rate for red root pigweed and Palmer amaranth. Later, we’ll apply a Blazer, 2,4-DB, Basagran tank mix, or Cadre plus2,4-DB. We also apply 16 oz. of Volunteer, which gives us excellent grass control.
“Our consultant, Mitt Wardlaw, Southern Ag Consulting at Starkville, Miss., whose advice we trust implicitly, says if you have to have a limiting factor with peanuts, it should be something you can’t control, like weather. So, we work hard to make sure none of the things we can control are limiting factors.”
In a perfect world, based on this year’s planting dates, “We should be able to start digging about Sept. 23, which would be the earliest ever for us,” Don says. “Last year, we started digging exactly 135 days after planting, which was a first for us. If there are no weather setbacks, we can be done with harvest in 30 days — and be getting ready for deer season.”
They have two 6-row combines, an Amadas self-propelled combine and a KMC pull-behind, plus two KMC 4-row diggers.
Mississippi growers have done well with peanuts, he notes; last year, the state had the nation’s highest average yield. “We had the best crop ever on our farm,” Don says. “We had some fields that yielded 6,000 pounds-plus, and our average across all fields was 4,664 pounds. For us, that was phenomenal.”
Don’s grandfather started farming here and his father continued the tradition.
“My earliest childhood memory is of playing in a cotton wagon on Daddy’s farm,” he says. “He’s 78now, but he’s still a hands-on guy; he knows everything that goes on. He still helps with planting and harvesting, and he’s really sharp at marketing cottonseed at Farmers Gin, the co-op in which we’re shareholders, and he serves as board president. My mom, Mary Anna, keeps books for the gin, which ginned 40,000-plus bales last year. And my wife, Lisa, runs the seed tender and module builder, and has been a vital part of everything we’ve achieved over the years.
“Our son-in-law, Hank Harrington, had a good off-farm desk job, but like me, he’s an outside kind of guy, and I couldn’t be happier that he decided to join us on the farm. He’s very talented and can do anything that needs to be done.
“Our son, Nathan, has a good off-farm position with a nearby industry, but he takes vacation time to help out here when we’re in a crunch at planting and harvesting, and I’m hoping I can eventually persuade him to come back to the farm.”
Don says he’s grateful to “so many people who helped us when we started growing peanuts — Dan West and the Atkins family, who pioneered peanuts in this area; Dr. Marshall Lamb, research director at the USDA National Peanut Research Laboratory; Dr. John Beasley, peanut specialist at the University of Georgia; Mike Howell, Mississippi State University Extension peanut specialist; Joe Morgan, long-time grower at Hattiesburg and president of Mississippi Peanut Growers; the Birdsong Peanuts staff — everyone was so good to us, so helpful.
“Helpfulness is catching, and I made a commitment that I would do the same, that I’d help any grower I could with advice and the benefit of my experience with the crop. You can face some real hardships with peanuts, and if I can be of assistance to another grower, that’s what I want to do.”