Determining maturity is vital in getting the best yield potential from a peanut crop, says McMillan.

“When I was at the University of Georgia, they were just coming out with the hull-scrape method, and I’ve relied on it since then. We bring it to the county agent, and we always try to be there ourselves to look at it.

“Then, if we think the peanuts are ready, we’ll go plow two rows and do my father’s old method where you shell them out and come up with a percentage of matures and immatures.

“If the matures are in the 70-percent range, and the hull-scrape indicates it, then we usually dig. Our family really believes in leaving peanuts in the dirt until they reach full maturity.”

There are legitimate justifications for digging early, he says, such as when a storm is coming. But for full yield, he says, peanuts need to be left in the dirt for a sufficient length of time.

As for recent gyrations in the peanut market, he believes it’s a situation that won’t change anytime soon. “I think the peanut market will always be of a roller-coaster nature, and cotton and corn prices will have a big effect on peanuts.”

McMillan is hopeful a new farm bill will be approved by Congress this year, but he’s concerned about the effect it may have on rural communities.

“I hate to see direct payments eliminated because that will take a lot of money out of rural communities. Farmers spend money from direct payments — they either need it for the cash flow, or they’ll spend it.

“Either way, it’s good for the local economy. But if there’s a safety net, that’s more important than a direct payment, and that’s more justifiable to the general public.”

Whether or not an eighth generation of McMillans takes the helm of Southern Grace Farms is uncertain, he says.

“Steve and I both have sons who are debating coming back to the farm. Our father never encouraged us to come back to the farm; he felt it was something to which you needed to be fully committed.

“My 16-year-old is struggling with it, because he has a sentimental attachment to the farm and he’s afraid there won’t be an eighth generation. But I’ve tried to explain to him that sometimes things just have to end, and that he doesn’t need to come back to the farm for that reason alone.”

McMillan and his wife, Margaret, have three sons, Jesse, Tyson and Daniel. He is a board member of the Berrien County Farm Bureau and is on the state fruit committee of the Georgia Farm Bureau.

He’s also a member of the Berrien County Board of Education and the Nashville United Methodist Church.


For a look at the overall Peanut Profitability program and an overview of all regional winners, see Farm Press names 14th class of Peanut Profitability Award winners.