I am looking forward to the 22nd Annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference. I haven't missed one and am reminded of how it got started.
As I recall, Randy Griggs, you all remember him, and Don Koehler, who's still around, got together on a cold February day and commiserated.
"It's cold," Randy said.
"Yep," Don answered.
"Wish I was lying on a warm beach somewhere sippin' iced tea," Randy countered.
"Yep," said Don. "I'll have lemonade."
Randy pondered. "You know, we should create a peanut conference, have it at the beach every summer."
""Yep. How's that gonna help us get warm now?"
"We'll have to run down to Panama City and check out the lodgings, probably about this time every year."
"Yep. That should take a week or more, just to make sure things are handled properly," Don said.
"And lie on the beach sipping' iced tea," Randy answered.
"We need to alert the media."
Let's call Farm Press," Don said. "They are always up for a trip. They can help promote it."
They called former Southeast Farm Press editor Paul Hollis, got him on board. He suggested we create a producer award to honor growers across the Peanut Belt. Paul called me. I was slaving away in Texas at the time and welcomed the opportunity to spend a few days on the company dime at the beach sippin' something stronger than iced tea. And Texas grows peanuts.
We got Marshall Lamb involved. He likes the beach, too. More importantly, Marshall works for the USDA Peanut Research Laboratory and would add at least a modicum of respectability to what might otherwise have turned into a junket.
Marshall took little persuading. "Good idea," he said. "I can lounge around on the beach, soak up some sun and drink lemonade that someone else pays for."
He liked the producer award too. "Tell you what I'll do," he said. "I can be the official supervisor of the award and create an entry form to emphasize profitability and efficiency. I'll make it as complicated as possible."
Paul and I pondered the possibilities for a while, mostly wondering how we could present the event as something more newsworthy than a few days lollygagging on the beach. The grower award, we thought, would be a good companion piece to our already successful High Cotton Award.
Apparently, publishers also like the beach, so management approved the plan.
This year marks the 21st annual Farm Press Peanut Efficiency Award. It also marks 22 consecutive years we've spent a few days at the beach at the company's expense.
The conference is now an established, respected venue that deals with the latest updates on consumer issues, markets and research.
The award, including the 21st class this year, has honored more than 60 deserving peanut farmers.
It's been an honor to be a part of it.
Editor’s note: The 2020 southern Peanut Conference has been postponed until 2021, another casualty of COVID-19. The 2020 Peanut Efficiency Award winners will be recognized at the 2021 conference