When the Federal Peanut Program ended in the early 2000s, South Carolina had a scant few thousand acres of production. This year South Carolina peanut farmers will likely dig close to 70,000 acres.

A big part of the success of South Carolina peanuts has been attributed by growers to the leadership provided by Clemson Peanut Specialist Jay Chapin and his Research Assistant James Thomas. 

Though Chapin shuns the spotlight and attributes the success of peanuts in the state to the diligence of peanut growers, there is little doubt he played a key role in the agriculture success story of peanuts in South Carolina.

Replacing a legend is never easy, but Monfort says working with Chapin this growing season (he took over as peanut specialist in June) has been a big plus. Chapin, though retired, will stay on for the 2012 season to finish projects and to help Monfort get more acclimated to his new role.

“Having Jay stay on next season allows me to take a look from the outside and determine how I can add to the outstanding program that he has going here at the Edisto Center.

“I think it’s important to get a good understanding of what growers need and to have some time to figure out some ways to improve on the things they are already doing,” Monfort says.

Branchville, S.C., peanut farmer and head of the South Carolina Peanut Board, Richard Rentz says Chapin will be missed.

“You just don’t lose that kind of knowledge and dedication without feeling the loss, but we feel like we have a great scientist and a great person in Scott Monfort to continue the work Jay has started, and we are looking for great things from him in the future,” Rentz says.

As a testament to Chapin’s value to South Carolina peanut growers, several groups in the state banded together to buy him a John Deere four-wheel ATV, commonly called a ‘gator’.

Despite nearly a year of fund-raising, the ATV was a total surprise for Chapin, when he was presented the gift at a recent field day at the Edisto Research Center.

“It’s been a joy and a pleasure to work with farmers in South Carolina all these years — a real privilege. And, it’s been a special time working with peanut growers and seeing the industry take off over the past few years. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Chapin said in accepting the gift.

rroberson@farmpress.com