Whenever dryland yields equal those of irrigated land, it’s about as close to perfection as a peanut production season can be — and that’s what Tim McMillan and his family experienced in 2012.

“I’ve been farming since 1983, and last year was the most perfect year for weather I’ve seen, says McMillan, who along with his brother Steve owns and operates Southern Grace Farms in south Georgia’s Berrien County.

“My father bought our first cable-tow traveler in 1978, after the drought of 1977,” he says. “This past year was the first since I’ve been farming I didn’t drag it out from under the shed.

“The rains we got were perfect, and temperatures were low enough peanuts weren’t hurt. It was a dream year, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever see one like it again.”

Altogether, it was a good enough year to earn McMillan and Southern Grace Farms the 2013 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award for the Lower Southeast Region.

The award is based on production efficiency, and McMillan says there are two keys to achieving this goal.

“One is being timely — whether you’re talking about herbicides, insecticides or irrigation. If it needs to be done today, it needs to be today, not tomorrow. The second is holding down overhead costs, including equipment, general supplies, and inputs.”

Tim and Steve are the seventh generation of McMillans on the farm, located in the community of Enigma.

“When I graduated from the University of Georgia, my father decided to retire,” Tim says. “He sold us his equipment, and he kept the land, which we continued to rent over the years while we bought some farms of our own. He’s semi-retired, but at age 80 continues to grow 30 or 40 acres each year.”

In the beginning, the brothers farmed “separate but together,” explains Tim. “We shared some of the same equipment, but had different farms. We diversified our crops, and I tended tobacco and planted cotton while Steve planted peanuts and some of the cotton. We did that until 1996, when we discovered we both were working hard for each other, but were having to keep things separate.

“We’d have to get together once a month to settle up. That wasn’t always fair, because one of us might get rain when the other one didn’t. We worked equally hard, but we weren’t always coming out the same.”

That led in 1996 to the corporation now known as Southern Grace Farms. However, changes in the tobacco program caused them to diversify and grow a different mix of crops.

“At that time, we were growing tobacco, cotton, corn and rye. In the late 1990s, we started losing our tobacco quota. We were encouraged to grow you-pick strawberries, and I tried that for a couple of years in the yard, but it didn’t work for me.