The Davis Family (L-R: Michael, Lisa, Michaela and Ashby Massey)
Peanut harvest is happening now across the rural South. Nearly 7,000 multi-generational peanut farm families take care to complete the long and rewarding work—first begun in the Spring at planting—and now finishing with digging, turning, drying and harvesting to ensure a successful peanut crop gets to market.
The average peanut farm is about 200 acres. Farmers work closely with their local community agriculture businesses to sell and distribute their harvests, maintain farm equipment and invest in their land. For many rural areas, farmers are an economic and social keystone; linking neighbors in a web of social and economic relationships and contributing to local causes.
A sixth-generation farmer, Michael Davis, along with his wife Lisa, daughter Mikaela and soon-to-be-son in-law Ashby, farm hundreds of acres of peanuts and other crops in the panhandle of Florida. Davis operates the farm enterprise with his four brothers and their families. They work cooperatively but operate as separate business entities.
“We all function like we’re in business for ourselves,” said Davis. “This allows us to buy in bulk, share 18 local employees, harvest together, and it generally helps us all be better stewards of the land.”
The Davis family of farmers also invests in several farm-supporting businesses, which benefits the people in the surrounding communities. They invest in a local cotton gin and buying point. The Davis’ local warehouse stores peanuts and produce from other crops grown nearby. These endeavors create local jobs season after season which helps sustain the rural economy.
“We’re at the local auto parts store almost every day and we couldn’t operate without the fuel companies and the tractor and equipment companies we’ve done business with all our lives,” said Davis.
Not only is the Davis family contributing to the local community today, but they are working to ensure their farm and auxiliary businesses stay viable for future generations. Michael and Lisa’s daughter, Mikaela, will graduate in December 2018 with a degree in Global Business, which she chose to be able to either run a farm or any business she may choose.
Her fiancé, Ashby Massey, currently works on the Davis farm after a career with a farm equipment company. After they marry in November, they plan to first establish themselves in agriculture-related fields, save money, and possibly buy farm equipment or land to have the option of carrying on with the family’s legacy.
Leaving Florida to travel north along the Atlantic seaboard to Virginia, the Pope family in Drewryville have their own story of family, farm and community. When farming changed in 2001, the Popes found a way to keep farming by creating a gourmet nut product from the peanut crop they grow, which now ships all over the United States and abroad. Their family farm business is sustainable today and they are meeting their goal of passing it on to another generation. View their story, “A History Rooted in Family,” here.
From banks and ball fields to auto shops and equipment suppliers, farmers keep rural communities in business, thriving and planting seeds for the next generation.