Jared and Lexi Floyd both admit they have competitive spirits, not lending well to many family game nights, but drives that fuel diversification and growth in their peanut production, earning them the 2019 Peanut Efficiency Award for the Southwest.
Each year, Farm Press, in cooperation with the Southern Peanut Growers Conference, names four Peanut Efficiency winners from four U.S. regions: the Lower Southeast, the Upper Southeast, the Delta and the Southwest. Growers are chosen based on their production efficiency, producing the highest yields at the lowest cost per acre.
And for the Floyds who farm on the red, sandy loam soils of Terry, Gaines and Yoakum counties, it’s their efficient production of conventional runner peanuts as well as their organic Spanish variety that has earned them this year’s peanut award.
The Floyds credit their overall farming success to diversification. “Everything we can do to diversify is what's helping make it work,” says Jared. “We run a lot of cattle. Much of the land we’ve used for cattle, we have slowly turned into organic certified land.”
The couple also produces conventional and organic cotton, conventional wheat and raises show steers.
“When I first started, I wasn't farming a lot of land and the stress was driving me crazy,” says Jared. “But you were also teaching,” adds Lexi, talking about his four years as an ag teacher. “Now, I'm farming a lot more land and being diversified has helped me so much,” he says.
But the Floyds also credit their seven fulltime employees. “I’ve got the best employees I’ve ever had right now,” says Jared. “I credit a lot of my success to them.”
Jared’s history with peanuts begins with his great grandfather D.C. Floyd, the first man in Gaines County to have peanut allotments. But Jared and Lexi are the first in their family to produce organic peanuts. “We started out with 150 acres of organic peanuts about five years ago,” recalls Lexi, who handles the extensive paperwork required to produce organic crops. “Today, that seems like nothing, but it was a lot back then. It’s a lot of extra effort.”
This year the Floyds will plant nearly 600 acres of organic peanuts and 400 acres of organic cotton where they previously grew peanuts. “What I usually do on new breakings (land never before farmed) is I plant it two years in organic peanuts and then switch to organic cotton or corn and rotate it,” says Jared. “With organics, you have to rotate.”
But the Floyds also produce organic peanuts on farmland previously cultivated for conventional crops, a transition that requires a three-year layout period and as Jared says, an understanding banker.
“While I was transitioning conventional land to organic, I was leaving a lot of money on the table because I wasn't farming that land − three years of tougher times to get to where I wanted to be. But I had set a goal and knew if I could ever get enough organic acres it would help my other conventional acres.”
And while his banker wasn’t familiar with organic production, when Jared explained the contracts, he said his banker’s eyes lit up. “He understands the bottom line and that they’re worth so much more. But he also understood I’d have a lot more in the hoeing and in inputs.
“It was three years I could have been planting a lot more conventional acres but I was leaving land out trying to get to this point. It was worth the wait, but it was tough, real tough. And if I didn't have my cattle at the time, it would've been extremely hard to do.”
See, Parenting: no expiration date, to learn more about Jared and his father Randy.
Over the last five years, the average yield on the Floyd’s conventional peanuts has been nearly 4,000 pounds, while the three-year average yield on their organics has been about 3,900 pounds per irrigated acre. In 2018, the organics sold for $1,200 per ton, while the conventionals yielded $400 per ton. The couple contracted their peanuts with All Star Peanuts at Wellman.
Due to the declining Ogallala Aquifer − the water source for growers on the Texas South Plains − Jared and Lexi say they’ve had to become creative in their farming strategy, cutting back on the number of acres irrigated but increasing the number of acres farmed. “I’ve learned it takes more land to farm the same amount of acres so you can push the water to those acres,” says Jared.
Two years ago, Jared broke out a section of land he leases from his great uncle, Dean Faulkenberry, in Terry County. “I'm going to have 170 acres of organic peanuts and then I'm going to have 220 acres of two-in-one cotton. I’ve also got some space to run cows. So, I'm taking this whole section of land and I'm pushing more water to the 170 acres compared to the 220 acres of organic cotton and making more money.”
For weed control, the Floyds depend on products like Valor for their conventional peanut acres. “It’s the best product for weed control,” says Jared. “It’s critical to make sure you get it out there, and I guarantee you for the first 45 days there won’t be a weed in the field.”
But for the organics, terminating weeds demands a lot of hand labor, says Lexi. “They’re so labor intensive. You can’t spray them, so you’ve got to hoe them.” The most employees the Floyds have had on their payroll at one time is 87 people.
Jared says he’s also learned to break the land later and constantly run knives before planting to help with weed control. “I’m also finding out, where I’m breaking out CRP (Conservation Reserve Program land), the weeds are a lot less than on the land that was in cultivation and laid out for three years.”
As for fertilizer, the Floyds spread compost on their organic soil. “I’ve learned, I get higher yields the second year after I’ve applied the compost. I put on 4,000 pounds the first year and 4,000 pounds the second year, and I don't know why, but the second year always has higher yields,” he says.
On their conventionals, they apply a couple of rounds of nitrogen when the peanuts are six to eight weeks old and a little bit of potash, he says.
When planting the organics, Jared says he plants about eight seeds per foot. “I plant my organics thicker than my conventionals because it’s not treated seed. The germination is a little weaker on my organics, so not all of the seeds will come up. Hopefully, I can get six seeds per foot.”
Peanut harvest on the Floyd farm is a joint effort between Jared and Lexi and Jared’s dad Randy Floyd, who also farms. While Lexi cooks for the crew, Jared and Randy both run self-propelled Amadas. “My dad and I are really close. We help each other out as much as we can.”
Lexi grew up in an agribusiness family in California before moving to Chicago and then to Texas, to teach “Ag in the Classroom.”
Off the farm, when Lexi isn’t managing the farm books for their operation and eight other producers, she’s active in ag leadership. “I was the first woman on the Terry County Farm Bureau board,” she says. She also serves on the board for the West Texas Young Farmers and the Western Peanut Growers Association and is participating in the Peanut Leadership Academy through the National Peanut Board.
The Floyds have three daughters: Ashton (14) and Aniston (11), both of Denver City and a three-month-old Channing, of Brownfield.