On March 13, 2020, a national state of emergency was declared in the U.S. shutting down restaurants, movie theaters and shopping centers across the country. In the days that followed, people were ordered to stay home and quarantine until the coronavirus was controlled.
What was initially supposed to be an eight-week pause to normalcy, turned into the new normal in the months that followed. Farmers had to adjust their plans and adapt to the ever-changing environment.
Cris Hawkins of Seminole, Texas said his biggest challenge was keeping morale up for the workers and his family and making sure his employees stayed safe and healthy.
“At one time, we had an employee that was exposed, and we were in the middle of thrashing peanuts, so all the guys were riding together,” Hawkins said. “[I was scared] I was going to lose them all to the virus. [We] tested them and split them all up in separate pickups and luckily no one came down sick and we got through and all peanuts loaded on trucks.”
Hawkins was able to assign certain employees to specific tractors and pickups so he would be able to keep the virus isolated if an employee did get sick. Although 2020 brought challenges, Hawkins is looking forward to 2021.
“The Virginia peanut price is looking a little better than this year, hopefully [there will be] rain and no pandemic scare.”
In Albany, Ga., peanut grower Sedrick Rowe was able to forge ahead by keeping the faith and making sure he maintained production in a timely manner. Rowe was able to do more work in the fields and secure more acreage of organic land.
“My biggest challenge in 2020 would be land access, trying to come across virgin land and people willing to give me the opportunity to farm on it” Rowe said.
Rowe remains hopeful for what 2021 will bring.
“I’m looking forward [to] more land access and better weather since I’m mostly dry land [non-irrigated].”
While the pandemic brought new challenges to peanut farmers, some challenges were familiar foes to growers.
Blake Roberson of Robersonville, N.C. has been farming for 12 years and grows tobacco, peanuts, sweet potatoes, watermelons, clay sage and soybeans on his farm. He said that despite the early cold start to the 2020 season followed by an extended drought, he was still able to produce a decent crop last year.
Despite the challenge’s the world faced, farmers, like Roberson, weren’t given an option to wait the pandemic out and for the return to normal.
“We just kept on going like always, Farmers don’t stop due to a pandemic. We just keep rolling," Roberson said.