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By Bev Odom
The Red River Sun
WELLINGTON — Peanut harvest is well under way in Collingsworth County with the first load arriving in late September at the Cross Road location of Birdsong Peanuts. The familiar hum of a peanut dryer signals fall’s arrival.
“The peanut yields look good,” said James Cleveland, Birdsong’s buying point manager, who serves the Texas Panhandle, Rochester area and Western Oklahoma. “The vines are holding up for the most part, and the widespread rain showers last week didn’t affect the harvest since producers had already delivered peanuts they had dug.”
Birdsong purchased Cross Road Peanut Company in early 2021 to expand the capacity for local growers that wish to increase their production, explained Cleveland.
“This created more room for local growers,” Cleveland said. “The area grows some of the highest quality peanuts in the U.S., and several thousand acres of peanuts are raised in the region.”
Since 1993, Roy Vela has served in various peanut industry roles in Collingsworth County longer than anyone else, explained Cleveland. Vela is currently the farmer stock supervisor in Wellington. Sandra Orozco assists by running the scales.
Robert Bogel remains farmer stock manager for the Cross Road location. Long-term employee Sherri Barton has been promoted to a new Birdsong position, human resources supervisor. Christina Villa operates the scales at this site.
Rigo Orozco fills the farmer stock supervisor position in Memphis with Clairesa Peralez in charge of the scales. Debra Smith serves as area office manager for the three locations.
The current workforce for the Memphis, Cross Road and Wellington sites is about 30 hands.
“Last year was horrible because of the labor situation,” Cleveland said. “This year, [Rigo] Orozco recruited most of the hands just out of summer vegetable harvest in the Valley.”
Once dried, the peanuts are warehoused in the Memphis and Cross Road sites then shipped to Brownfield, one of six shelling plants strategically located across the U.S.
“Tons of peanuts are shipped back to Memphis for post-storage,” Cleveland added. “From there, they are trucked to manufacturers all over the world – California, Pennsylvania, Maine, Canada, Mexico and ports to be shipped overseas. The Spanish variety is used in candy – Mars, M&Ms, Hershey – and the Runner variety is primarily for peanut butter.”
If all goes as planned, Cleveland said that they shoot for being through with peanut harvest by Thanksgiving.