A couple of weeks ago, I was invited on a special Texas Peanut Blog Tour in Lubbock, Texas. They hosted us at the Overton Hotel and stuffed our itinerary with activities and discussions. Thank you to the Texas Peanut Producers Board for sponsoring the trip and this post.
This trip was 2 full days packed with sight-seeing, TONS of delicious food and wine, and tours filled with information that I honestly wasn’t expecting. I learned more about Texas farming, processing, production, and food in those 48 hours than I can even convey in a single blog post.
I’ve lived in west Texas most of my life. I even lived in Lubbock for about a year and a half before and after I married my husband as he was a student at Texas Tech. I’ve driven past peanut fields and cotton fields for as long as I can remember and never really stopped to think about the bigger picture and how these crops shape the communities they are in, the state, and the nation!
Welcome to Lubbock
When we arrived, we were greeted with a wonderful welcome reception at the Bayer Museum of Agriculture with Visit Lubbock providing some terrific food and entertainment. My grandmother has always told me about cowboy music and entertainment, and now I totally get it. John and Wayne were a hoot to talk to. Not only were we serenaded with some blue grass music, but the guys told stories and jokes in a melodic and playful manner as a dinnertime treat.
Our food was made chuckwagon style, and there was even a big dinner bell that they rang to get us to come dig in. It was spectacular!
They provided an impressive selection of Texan beer and wine as well.
Prior to this tour, I seriously didn’t even really understand how a peanut grew. It’s pretty unique, and it was awesome listening to farmers tell us about this crop.
Monty and Kathy Henson were the cutest couple, and you can tell that they really love what they do. We went out to one of their large pieces of land out in Brownfield and got to see firsthand how they grow their peanuts.
Something that really stuck out to me was how they do whatever they can to create the best end product possible. For example, they give their crops Reverse Osmosis water rather than the plain tap water that is notoriously poor quality out in west Texas.
They also reuse whatever they can. When they harvest the peanuts, nothing goes to waste. They use the dried out plants that are leftover once separated from the peanuts themselves for hay or to go back into the earth to enrich the soil.
Once they’ve harvested the peanuts, they take them over to the processing plant. We got to go out there and see the exact process that every single peanut goes through.
Birdsong Peanuts is a processing facility. They take the raw peanuts from the farmers and process them into the product that other companies purchase and sell. They do not roast the nuts, but they do sell to big companies like Planters, Mars, Smuckers, and Hershey, who often take the nuts and further process or cook them.
Birdsong Peanuts process several different types of peanuts (which are actually legumes!). This particular plant is the only one Birdsong has in Texas and they focus on the southwest peanuts.
Want to know something cool? Even the processing plant is all about reducing waste. They make cattle feed out of the shells they process out of the finished products. “Bad peanuts”, or peanuts that aren’t deemed perfect enough for selling are used to make peanut oil.
This plant is working year round to process nuts. During our visit, they were actually still processing the last of the 2015 crop and were preparing for the influx of the 2016 crop, which will be arriving soon. During harvest season, they might go through 100 trucks of peanuts a day. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much until you realize that there are 44,000 pounds per truckload. Wowza!
Lost Draw Cellars
After checking out the farm and the processing facility, we were off to the home of Andy Timmons. He owns and operated Lost Draw Cellars and has a vineyard right off of his beautiful home’s back porch!
I most certainly didn’t realize there were vineyards out there. When I think of Texas wine, I always think of Hill Country, but true Texan-sourced and made wine is made mostly out of grapes grown in the Lubbock area.
In a future post, I’ll go into more detail about Lost Draw, but for now I wanted to focus on how this ties in with peanuts.
Many of the peanut farmers in the area are beginning to start their own vineyards in the High Plains. The temperatures and climate are good for growing many different varieties of grapes. Did you know that 80% of the grapes in Texas are from the High Plains?
Lost Draw actually only uses about 5% of their own grapes on their own private label wines. They actually sell the rest to other wineries. There’s a good chance that you’ve tried some grapes from Lost Draw if you’ve had some Texas Wine that mentions being from Lubbock. Lost Draw’s own wines are pretty unique in that they keep an eye on the whole sha-bang from farm to processing to selling directly to consumers through their wine club.
We were treated to a tour of McPherson Cellars right as they were processing a truckload of grapes. It was really interesting to see the huge vats that the wine is made and stored in, as well as the bottling process. Again, I will have another blog post talking more about McPherson Cellars, but I wanted to point out that they are the main bottler in Lubbock. If you ever see a Texas wine that says it was bottled in Lubbock, this would be the place!
Many companies bottle and label their wines at this former Coca Cola bottling facility. This location is such a neat place with tons of history to it, which I can’t wait to share with you. While we were there, they also gave the group a private wine tasting.
I don’t know much about wines (although I know a LOT MORE now!), but it was cool to hear about how white wines are made verses red wines. Another cool tidbit: they recycle the grape skins to a goat farmer as feed. See, another instance of not wasting anything!
After the tour, we were treated to a dinner of many courses. This was catered by North Catering and was so divine. The same ladies that brought us this memorable peanut-themed dinner are also behind the restaurant The Pickle & The Pig, which is a MUST try if you are ever in Lubbock!
Everything they served to us was a special menu item that was created especially for our Texas Peanuts Blog Tour. From the cheddar peanut bread to the buffalo slider (ground with boiled peanuts) to the Ribeye with Roasted Peanut Mir Poix (with Chimichurri Butter), everything was outstanding.
Of course, a selection of McPherson wines and Sherry were sampled during the dinner as well. The setting was absolutely beautiful and I highly recommend it for any fancy, intimate gatherings in Lubbock.
Finally, for our last blog tour activity, we were able to listen to and ask questions of Kyla Hamilton of CommonGround. This is an organization made up of women who are either farmers or the wives of farmers. It connects moms, women, and food influencers with the faces behind their food. CommonGround is made up of 184 volunteers in 19 states and addresses common questions about food and farming with woman to woman conversations.
Texas is actually pretty new to the organization. They host farm to table events, speak with the media, and help consumers sort through myths and misinformation surrounding the food that is being grown for us to eat. They address nine main focus topics: Farm Ownership, GMO Foods, Animal Welfare, Food Safety, Organic and Local Foods, Sustainability, Hormones in Meat and Milk, Food Prices, and Antibiotics and Animal Health.
What I love most is that this organization puts a human face, name, family, and farm to the foods that we are eating. She’s a real life farmer’s wife, doing her best to make sure that the food ALL of our families eat is good quality and safe.
I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun while working. This trip was informative and fun, and I walked away with several new friends.
If you’d like to see what the other bloggers thought, be sure to check them out:
- Addicted 2 Recipes
- Carrie Elle
- A Zesty Bite
- Joyful Healthy Eats
- The Baker Mama
- Inside BruCrew Life
Thank you again to the Texas Peanut Producers Board. This was a great experience, and I feel honored to have been a part of your first ever blog tour! A special thank you to Hallie Bertrand, Communications Director, and to Shelly Nutt, Executive Director (and yes, that’s her real name – it was destiny!).
If you’re looking for some delicious peanut recipes, check out the ones I’ve posted on the blog before: