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Meet peanut farmer Tommy Dollar: “Never quit learning”

Sustainability

At Campbell, we believe farmers play a significant role in making the food you love to eat. For over 150 years, we’ve built strong connections with farmers. Today, we’re proud to introduce you to Tommy Dollar, third-generation owner and President of Dollar Family Farms in Bainbridge, Georgia.

Tommy Dollar's grandchild

According to Tommy Dollar, his farm operation has 4,000 acres of cotton, corn, peanuts, cattle, pine trees—and grandchildren.

“My grandfather started Dollar Farm Products, a farm supply business, in 1939,” Tommy says. “I built our first cotton gin in 1988 and started Dollar Family Farms in 1990.”

Today, Tommy’s son, Hugh, manages the farm operations while Tommy focuses on broader initiatives such as managing water quality. Tommy also co-founded and serves on the board of the American Peanut Growers Group [APGG], a cooperative handling and peanut shelling group for farmers in Georgia and Alabama.

Peanuts—in a nutshell

Peanuts are a longtime rotation crop in the sandy soils of southwest Georgia. The planting season begins in April or May, after the field has been sampled to confirm growing conditions are right. The Dollars sow 150 pounds of seeds per acre—one seed every two inches, in twin rows seven inches apart. The plants, with their delicate yellow flowers, grow above ground, but the pods with the peanuts—which are the seeds—grow underground.

After 140 to 145 days, sometime in September through November, as much as 2 tons of pods are ready for harvesting.

Peanut plants blossoming, around day 30 of growing
Peanut plants blossoming, around day 30 of growing
Peanuts after they've been plowed, drying in a field before they're picked
Peanuts after they’ve been plowed, drying in a field before they’re picked

The Dollars plow up the peanuts and let them dry in the field for two to four days, depending on the sunlight. Then they pick the peanuts and use dryers to reduce the moisture. Government inspectors grade the peanuts for size, volume, coloration, and other parameters. The peanuts are stored in 27 warehouses until they can be hauled to the shelling plant.

A grower-owned shelling plant

In the early 2000s, a group of peanut growers including Tommy got together to invest and start their own peanut shelling organization.

APGG was formed as a grower-owned shelling facility so they could sell directly to the end user, companies like Campbell! In fact, APGG’s longest relationship is with Lance crackers. Our Lance peanut butter sandwich crackers include their split kernels.  

The shelling facility is known for its high-quality peanuts and President and CEO Neal Flanagan thinks that’s partly because of the equitable way they operate.

“Everyone is treated the same,” says Neal. “Tommy is one of our larger share-holders, but the way all 130-plus growers are paid is the same, whether you’re a 50-ton grower or a 10,000-ton grower.”

In addition to their focus on quality and food safety, APGG is also committed to reducing their environmental impact. One way they promote sustainability is by conducting surveys to learn how their farmers manage resources, from water to soil. By sharing their findings, farmers can learn from one another and have a baseline to improve performance over time.

APGG also installed solar panels, to help meet the rising cost of electricity.

Dollar Farm Products also has several acres of solar panels on the farm that help offset their power consumption
Dollar Farm Products also has several acres of solar panels on the farm that help offset their power consumption

Spreading knowledge and cheer

Hugh and Tommy meet every morning at 7 a.m.

“I want him to be an expert,” Tommy says, “and I try to help with what I’ve learned. It’s not as simple as planting a seed and harvesting it.”

The Dollars rely heavily on experts at the University of Georgia, Auburn University, and the University of Florida to understand how to grow peanuts sustainably by preserving water quality and quantity, and natural habitats.

“I’ll never learn everything about growing crops, but I can learn something every day. Never quit learning.”

-Tommy Dollar, Peanut farmer and co-founder of American Peanut Growers Group

That learning has helped Tommy and his team weather the inevitable bad times.

“I have to do everything I can to be the cheerleader. I try to help our farm and our industry be profitable and stay in business through the good years and bad years. When I come to work and see the trucks going out to get a load of fertilizer, the workers planting peanuts that will become food people will enjoy, and the farmers coming to talk—that’s what I thrive on.”

Where to buy

You can taste Tommy and Hugh’s peanuts in our Lance snacks. Learn more about Lance history and find out where to buy your favorite snack.

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