What is in this article?:
- Jart Hudson: Peanut Profitability Award winner for Upper Southeast
- 1980s were tough on the farm
- Distance to buyer a major obstacle
• Jart Hudson 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.
JART HUDSON, is the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award winner for the Upper Southeast Region.
1980s were tough on the farm
Growing up on the farm, Hudson almost lived in his father’s shadow, following him to tobacco sales and being with him through all the planting, tending and harvesting of crops. He left to attend North Carolina State University, where he earned a degree in business management and agricultural economics, then returned in 1983 to join the family farming operation. At that time, they farmed about 10-15 acres of peanuts, another 10-15 acres of tobacco, 25 acres or so of vegetable crops and a couple hundred acres of corn.
In the early 1980s, times were “really tough” for farmers in Samson County, he says. The largest farmer in the area had less than 500 acres. “Just to stay in business from one bad year to another was a real challenge. With a lot of hard work, good employees, and a first class business partner, we’ve been able to increase the size of our farming operation and peanuts have been a big part of that growth,” Hudson says.
After the peanut allotment program went away in the early 2000s, the door opened for him to increase acreage. “We had been growing peanuts on our farm for as long as I could remember, but on a very small acreage, and it wasn’t a major crop for us economically. Tobacco had always been our money crop. But when the tobacco buyout came, it offered us more incentives to move into more peanut production.”
One thing that held back peanut production, he says, was that they had no drying facilities on the farm and had to truck their crop 45 miles one way to the nearest buying point. “Just about everything bad that could happen transporting a crop — from flat tires on up — happened to us during that time period,” Hudson says.
In the late 1990s cotton looked like a good option, and getting into the cotton business would later turn out to be the catalyst he needed to increase peanut acreage.
He explains: “I was a partner in a cotton gin, where I met my friend and now long-time business partner, Vic Swinson. Together, we figured out a better way to dry and transport our peanuts. Since then our peanut business has really taken off. Having a good friend to bounce ideas back and forth with is one of the best assets in life.
“After looking at some commercial drying trailers, we decided we could buy used trailers and redesign them ourselves.” After reading an article about drying peanuts in remodeled semi-trailers, he and Swinson bought 30 well-used semi-trailers at Memphis, Tenn. “We ended up spending more on transportation expenses to get them back to our farms than we paid for the trailers,” he says.
For several weekends, employees from Hudson’s farm made the long trip to Memphis to haul the trailers back for refitting to dry peanuts. “That solved some of our problems, but we still had to load peanuts on semi-trucks and send them 45 miles to the nearest buyer,” he says.