Jart Hudson, a fourth generation peanut farmer at Turkey, N.C., says peanuts are as much a social and cultural part of his heritage as the crop is to the economic well-being of his large, diversified farming operation.

He now grows more than 1,000 acres of peanuts, is co-owner of a peanut buying point at nearby Warsaw, N.C., and his farming operation includes large acreages of tobacco, corn, and wheat, plus a hog finishing operation.

Because of his efficiency as a peanut grower, Hudson has been named the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award winner for the Upper Southeast Region.

But in the early days of his farming career, such an operation was far from reality, he says.

“As a boy, one of my jobs on the farm was to ride on the back of a two-row applicator, stick in hand, charged with keeping the landplaster applicator from stopping up as it was applied to peanuts. At the end of the day, I looked like Casper the Friendly Ghost,” he laughs.

Back then, peanuts were unique to his part of North Carolina. The government allotment program was in place and getting acreage was tough.

“My uncle and my father grew peanuts together, but we’re talking only 15-20 acres back then,” Hudson recalls. “On Sunday afternoons, when I was just a kid, he would take us to a peanut field and my cousins and I would pull up peanut plants and fill the bed of a pickup truck. We’d then go back to my grandmother’s house to pick off the peanuts and boil them.

“The grownups would sit on my grandmother’s front porch, eat boiled peanuts and argue politics. I learned a lot about politicians of the time, a lot about life, and a lot about family from those Sunday afternoons.”

That early social and cultural event led to a modern day celebration on the Hudson farm. The third Saturday of August each year, they boil 55 gallons of peanuts and make 20 gallons of homemade ice cream.

“We do a lot of the same things we used to do at my grandmother’s house,” he says. “The politics are different, and we have 300 to 350 people at the party, but peanuts are still at the epicenter of our social and cultural life.”