Peanut Harvest in the Wiregrass Area

Alabama’s Landmark Park keeps peanut harvest tradition alive with vintage equipment

| April 2011

  • An early 1940s Lilliston stationary peanut picker
    An early 1940s Lilliston stationary peanut picker. Peanut stacks were hauled to a picker run off a tractor belt pulley. Often, farmers within a community would share the expense of the stationery picker and share the labor.
  • Peanut stacks are loaded by hand into the stationary peanut picker
    Peanut stacks are loaded by hand into the stationary peanut picker. Here, former Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright feeds the picker with a pitchfork.
  • After being removed from the vines, peanuts were dumped into washtubs or wagons
    After being removed from the vines, peanuts were dumped into washtubs or wagons.
  • Peanut stacks were placed in convenient locations around the fields to dry
    Peanut stacks were placed in convenient locations around the fields to dry.
  • In the Wiregrass area peanut rows were not always straight
    In the Wiregrass area peanut rows were not always straight.
  • As hay accumulated in the back of the stationary picker, it was fed into a mechanized baler, like this John Deere model
    As hay accumulated in the back of the stationary picker, it was fed into a mechanized baler, like this John Deere model. The man responsible for feeding the hay baler was called the “hay doodler.” Here, Jack Ammons performs that dirty and dusty job.
  • A mule-powered hay baler dating to the early 1900s
    A mule-powered hay baler dating to the early 1900s.
  • The cotton boll weevil: a, adult beetle: b, pupa: c, larva-enlarged
    The cotton boll weevil: a, adult beetle: b, pupa: c, larva-enlarged.
    From Farmers’ Bulletin No. 130, USDA
  • This peanut sheller, donated by Julian Webb Jr., Oglethorpe, Ga., dates to the 1890s
    This peanut sheller, donated by Julian Webb Jr., Oglethorpe, Ga., dates to the 1890s. It is on display at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village, Tifton, Ga.
    Photo courtesy Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village

  • An early 1940s Lilliston stationary peanut picker
  • Peanut stacks are loaded by hand into the stationary peanut picker
  • After being removed from the vines, peanuts were dumped into washtubs or wagons
  • Peanut stacks were placed in convenient locations around the fields to dry
  • In the Wiregrass area peanut rows were not always straight
  • As hay accumulated in the back of the stationary picker, it was fed into a mechanized baler, like this John Deere model
  • A mule-powered hay baler dating to the early 1900s
  • The cotton boll weevil: a, adult beetle: b, pupa: c, larva-enlarged
  • This peanut sheller, donated by Julian Webb Jr., Oglethorpe, Ga., dates to the 1890s

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of farmers yesterday and today, peanuts changed the agricultural face of the Wiregrass area. The Wiregrass region is an area marked by high humidity and mild winters, consisting of southern Georgia, southeastern Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. “Wiregrass” is the common name for Aristida stricta, a warm season grass native to this area of the South. 

While the peanut harvest usually happens in October, the process of planting and cultivating begins much earlier. Decades ago, land was broken for peanuts with a mule-drawn steel moldboard plow in late winter to early spring. Farmers planted peanut seeds in mid- to late April, using the moon to gauge the best time for planting.

Celebrating traditional practices

At Landmark Park, Alabama’s official museum of agriculture, the peanut harvest is demonstrated from start to finish every year. Located in Dothan, the self-proclaimed peanut capital of the world, the museum’s peanut harvest is a signature event for the park.

“Usually the second or third week of April was ideal for planting peanuts in the Wiregrass area,” says Landmark Park farm manager Sid Brannon. “That time was generally referred to as the Dark Nights of April because the moon is in its darkest phase then.”



Because herbicides were not readily available, farmers in the 1940s and earlier depended on mechanical cultivation to keep their crops clean. With normal rainfall, farmers started cultivating as soon as the grass sprouted. “A farmer would first bring in a mule-drawn cultivator and if that didn’t work,” Sid explains, “cultivation would have to be done with a hoe or by hand.”

A Fowler plow — a small, mule-drawn cultivation tool — was commonly used to cultivate peanuts as well as corn and cotton. For peanut growers, the Fowler was the cultivator of choice because it could get close to the crop, moving dirt in and out to kill weeds and grasses. In an era predating chemical herbicides, the Fowler was often used weekly.



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