ELIZABETHTOWN — Local peanut growers have had one of their best years ever, according to a Bladen County farmer.
“Please eat peanuts, and give them as Christmas gifts,” said Clarkton farmer Dan Ward on Tuesday at the Farm City Thanksgiving Breakfast at the Powell-Melvin Ag Center, adding, “If we run out, we can always grow more.”
Ward was the keynote speaker at the event, an annual celebration of the farmers and growers who provide the bounty enjoyed by Americans at their biggest yearly feast. Usually held as a dinner, this was the first year held as a breakfast.
Ward, in addition to being a local farmer, has served and continues to serve on various boards, including the Bladen County Farmers Association, the American Peanut Growers Association, and the National Peanut Board. The latter was the topic of his speech Tuesday to the approximately 100 elected officials, county and municipal leaders, court representatives, law enforcement officers, farmers, emergency management officials, civic organizations, and educators who turned out for the meal and fellowship.
The National Peanut Board, according to Ward, is utilizing cutting-edge technology to improve the peanut industry.
“We’re a non-GMO product, which means we don’t genetically modify,” Ward informed guests.
That doesn’t preclude the organization, however, from improving the product in other ways. Having recently visited Argentina, which, according to Ward, is the birthplace of the peanut, the National Peanut Board realized the wild peanuts flourishing there had done so without the help of man. The organization, he said, would like to utilize the genetics that have made the plant flourish there with the higher-yielding and tastier American version. Since GMOs are unique or novel versions of plants engineered in a lab, utilizing existing genetics could improve the industry without the controversy surrounding GMOs.
The Clarkton grower also told guests the organization is actively working in the field of peanut allergy research and promotion.
Ward cited a recent Learning Early About Peanut Allergy, or LEAP, study showing children who are exposed to peanuts at an early age are 81 percent less likely to develop allergies to the product later on. The study led the National Institute for Health, in the first part of this year, to release new guidelines recommending children at risk for developing allergies be exposed to peanut products at 4-6 months of age.
“This is some of the best news in the world of peanut allergies — ever,” said Ward.
Peanuts are an $84 billion industry in the U.S. and the seventh most valuable crop in the nation. Bladen County contributed approximately 360 acres of peanuts to the nation’s supply last year.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing email@example.com.