Owen Yoder had an idea last year that his peanut crop was shaping up to be a good one, but he didn’t realize how good until he began harvesting.

“I never anticipated growing such a good crop as we grew last year,” says Yoder, who farms in Alabama’s Dallas County, in the west-central portion of the state. “We were about halfway through combining when the folks at the buying point called and asked if we were about finished. I told him we still had a ways to go, and he told me we had a really good crop. We also had good grades, so it was just one of those years when everything works out well.”

His 2013 peanut crop was good enough to earn him the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award for the lower Southeast region. He attributes his success to God and says he is truly a blessed man.

Yoder is a dryland farmer, but he says that didn’t make much difference this past year. “Although I don’t irrigate, it was as if we had irrigation because the rainfall was so timely in our area. It seemed like we always received a shower at just the right time,” he says.

Yoder considers himself to be a relatively “new” peanut grower, having planted his first crop in 2011.

“I try to be diversified. My basis was cotton, and then I ventured off and started growing other crops,” says Yoder, who has been farming full-time since 2006. “I’ve been involved in farming practically all my life. I was born in Georgia and moved to Alabama when I was a young boy. My daddy grew peanuts, and I remember pulling weeds and hoeing as a young boy. I’ve always wanted to grow peanuts. It’s a different crop to grow, but I like new challenges and I enjoy it. I also run some cattle. This past year, I rolled up some peanut hay for the cattle, and I was really impressed with how well it did.”

In addition to cotton and peanuts, he also grows wheat, soybeans, corn, and grain sorghum.

“On my heavier or Black Belt soils, I have a three-year rotation of cotton, soybeans, corn, or grain sorghum. On the sandy loam soils, I grow cotton, wheat, soybeans, and, now, peanuts. I prefer to follow peanuts behind cotton.”

Yoder says he’s certain that planting on fresh ground is contributing to his excellent peanut yields. In 2013, he averaged 5,591 pounds per acre on 138 acres of peanuts. This year, his crop mix includes 150 acres of peanuts, 350 acres of cotton, and 200 acres of grain sorghum. He’ll also have between 200 and 250 acres of soybeans.

Irrigation certainly would help to remove some of the risks in farming, he says, and it’s an option he’ll probably consider at some point in the future.

Yoder considers his operation a small one, as he does most all of his own field work and depends on friends during the busiest times.

“I’d rather cut back on my acres and do things right than to spread myself out and take on more than I can handle.”