Major league baseball snacks grown in Portales provide economy boost

Major league baseball snacks grown in Portales provide economy boost

PORTALES, N.M. (KFDA) - One of the most known major league baseball snacks is grown in New Mexico and it has a significant impact in the economy.

Hampton Farms is one of the largest major league peanut distributors and has factories located right in city limits of Portales.

Farmers have been growing peanuts in Roosevelt county for over 100 years and the industry now generates about $10 million into the New Mexico economy each year.

"Portales was tagged pretty early on as 'gobber gulch' and we've taken advantage of that," said Karl Terry, Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director.

About 10,000 acres of peanut fields are spread throughout Roosevelt county and the average yield of just one acre is about 3,500 pounds worth of peanuts.

"We want people to understand that Portales is a progressive community that's really trying to move forward into the future, and peanuts are certainly a big part of that," said Randy Knudson, Roosevelt County Community Development Corporation President.

The two main peanut factories in the area are Hampton Farms and Ready Roast Nut Company. Between the two, they have over 200 employees and help generate other jobs in the community through the sale of farming supplies, trucking, manufacturing, packaging and more.

Those peanuts that fans are eating in stadiums across the United States could be grown from about 140 different farmers in the southwest and are processed right in Portales' Hampton Farms facilities.

"Everybody knows those major league teams, it's everything from the Rays, from the Angles, to the Dodgers and the Yankees and we package for all of those teams," said Quaylene Parkey, Hampton Farms Regional Sales Manager for Special Markets.

Hampton Farms packages for 29 major league teams, excluding the Toronto Blue Jays but everyday ship out 7 to 9 semi truck loads. That's about 45,000 pounds of peanuts.

"So, that's 90 million pounds a year, that's a lot of peanuts," said Parkey.

The Portales facilities process several types of peanuts which include the Virginia peanut, these are found in the major league baseball packaging. Also, the Spanish and runner peanuts, but the most popular peanut is the Valencia, which originated in Portales in the 1960's.

"Back then, a lot of the farmers would tell you that those were the 'eating peanuts' and that's because they are extremely good to eat and they were known for being roasted in their shells," said Karl.

Valencia's are particular when compared to their peanut cousins. They are smaller, yet sweeter and when cracked open they hold more kernels. Instead of two kernels, they can hold anywhere from 2 to even 5.

"The main peanut crop in Roosevelt county is the Valencia's," said Peter Guenther, Roosevelt County Peanut Grower. "I started growing it, it worked out great for me and I love it."

Most of the Valencia peanuts packaged in the U.S. are grown within a 100 mile radius of Portales.

Guenther has been growing Valencia's since 2005 farming 600 acres in the county.

He says compared to other crops they can be labor intensive, but once a seed sprouts, this peanut plant can handle the high plains unpredictable weather and are ready to harvest in just about 120 to 130 days.

"I've never seen my product in a jar or in a bag before growing Valencia's," said Guenther. "When you see it for the first time, it's pretty exciting to see. You planted it and you've seen it grow, then you go out there and see it in stores. It's a proud moment."

Roosevelt county says the Valencia is an important product in the area and is a peanut that the Portales community recognizes with.

The town has an elementary school named after the peanut and will also be celebrating its 44th Annual Peanut Festival in October, right around harvesting time.

Copyright 2017 KFDA. All rights reserved.