Virginia Peanut Board
Significant production of peanuts in Virginia began in the early twentieth century.
Virginia Historical Society
On 25 February 1948 the House of Delegates read by title a second time a
bill to create the Virginia Peanut Commission within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Known
today as the Virginia Peanut Board, its members represent the peanut-producing areas of the state, primarily southside
Virginia. The Board works closely with the Virginia Peanut Growers Association, an organization that promotes
and educates the public about Virginia peanuts.
Peanuts, a legume with high levels of vitamins, minerals, and protein, probably originated in South America as
early as 950 B.C. Sussex County claims to have been the site of the first commercially grown crop of peanuts in
Virginia. However, Confederate veteran Captain Kemp B. Elliott is considered the pioneer of the Virginia
peanut industry. In 1876, Charles W. Vellines, who worked for Elliott, invented "a machine that would
clean the pods thoroughly and with little damage. . . ." The Norfolk Storage Company, started by Elliott,
probably holds the title as the world's first peanut factory.
Peanuts grew in national popularity when Union soldiers brought them home from war. P. T. Barnum
also helped raise public consumption by offering "hot roasted peanuts" as a concession at his circus. Significant
production of peanuts in Virginia began in the early twentieth century. Amedeo Obici, an Italian immigrant,
and his future brother-in-law, Mario Peruzzi, started Planters Peanut Company in 1906, later known as
Planters Nut and Chocolate Company. Specializing in what is called the "Virginia bunch" variety of the
nut, Obici bought a factory in Suffolk in 1913. This city would become known as the "peanut capital
of the world."
Today Virginia boasts 3,000 peanut farms, 92,000 acres of peanuts under cultivation, and 250 to 350 million
pounds produced yearly.
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