Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Portales synonymous with peanuts

Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce

The first crop of peanuts in the Portales area was harvested a century ago this fall. Since that time the legume has sprouted deep in the hearts of Portales-area residents and our name has become synonymous with peanuts.

Local farmer John M. Bradley is credited with planting and harvesting the first peanut crop in the area in 1914 on a plot of ground just east of where Portales High School is today. He had ordered 300 pounds of Tennessee Red seed and planted 100 pounds himself and sold the rest to neighbors.

Bradley roasted that first crop in his kitchen oven and peddled them off the back of a truck locally and in the Pecos Valley. Those humble beginnings led to a multi-million dollar market over the next 100 years.

Peanut crops in the Portales Valley slowly gained popularity during the 1920s and 1930s. Then when World War II came along the demand skyrocketed when the government added peanuts to the daily rations for the troops overseas. The preferred peanut for that contract was Spanish peanuts so many local farmers switched to that variety during the war years.

Local peanut processor Taylor McCasland was hired as a government agent to purchase peanuts for the war effort and the need was evidently quite large. McCasland reported that it took all the buildings at the fairgrounds filled to the ceiling to store the crop and millions of 8-ounce cans of peanuts were sent to the troops. To meet the need, McCasland increased his roasting capacity to 18,000 pounds a day and worked day and night.

Also during World War II McCasland related that he cleaned and shipped 20 carloads of Tennessee Red peanuts to Russia from Portales.

After the war an allotment system was in place by the federal government designed to keep over production from occurring. This led to an era where farmers worked hard to increase yields so that their allotted acreage produced the most possible.

In 1967 what was to become known as the Valencia peanut variety began development. According to a 1991 story in New Mexico Farm and Ranch, Joe Randolph brought three seed varieties back from Tangiers that would be developed into the variety that would become the peanut for which Portales was known for years. Local farmer Delbert Brown also developed his own variety of the Valencia.

The Valencia is a smaller, brighter hulled peanut that produces four peas to a hull. The variety is also sweeter than other varieties making it unique both for eating out of the shell or in butters.

In 1945 McCasland sold his operation to a man who had just arrived from San Antonio named John Burroughs. Burroughs renamed it Portales Valley Mills. Late that year the mill was destroyed by fire but rebuilt and operating again in 1947, according to news reports. Burroughs eventually became the 18th governor of New Mexico.

R.L. Borden opened peanut processing operations in 1956. Borden bought out Randolph in 1974 and for many years the two major processors were Borden and Portales Valley Mills. In the 1980s Borden bought Portales Valley Mills and then soon after sold to Jimbo's Jumbos out of North Carolina. Delbert Brown then opened Portales Select and a group of peanut farmers opened Sunland, Inc.

Today, Hampton Farms owns what was once the Borden operation and in addition to Valencias also ships other varieties of peanuts from Portales, including peanuts bound for Major League Baseball parks across the country.

Sunland's operations were purchased in 2014 by Golden Boy Foods and had not recommenced operations by harvest time in 2014.

Peanut Valley Festival schedule

Thursday

• 6 p.m.: HPQF awards dinner/trunk showing ($15 per person)

Friday

• 9 a.m.: Quilt Festival Opens ($3 admission)

• 5 p.m.: Quilt Festival Closes

Saturday

• 8 a.m.: Peanut Dash 5K check-in

• 9 a.m.: Peanut Dash 5K start

• 9 a.m.: Peanut Festival opens (free admission)

• 9 a.m.: Quilt Festival opens ($3 admission)

• 9 a.m.: Health fair opens

• 10:30 a.m.: Entertainment begins

• 10:30 a.m.: Colton Hardy

• 12:30 p.m.: Funk Fusion Dancers

• 1 p.m.: Health fair closes

• 1 p.m.: Peanut Olympics

• 1:45 p.m.: Blackwater Band

• 5 p.m.: Quilt Festival closes

• 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Coby Carter and 5 Miles West

Sunday

• 11 a.m.: Peanut Festival opens (free admission)

• Noon: Entertainment begins

• 12:30 p.m.: Spiritual Journey

• 1:30 p.m. Josh Sullivan

• 3 p.m.: Randy Chavez y Sol

 
 
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