link Photo courtesy of the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce
Photos from the Bradley family will be on display at the 41st Annual Peanut Valley Festival at the Roosevelt County fairgrounds. According to Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karl Terry, John M. Bradley was the first person to plant a peanut crop in the Portales area.
Peanuts have been a part of the Roosevelt County culture for years, and as the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce learned, they have been in the area for 100 years this year.
Chamber Executive Director Karl Terry said he was surprised to learn that this year marked 100 years since the first recorded peanut crop was grown in Roosevelt.
Terry said that after extensive searches through Eastern New Mexico University’s special collections and the help of a few locals, he discovered that John M. Bradley was the first person to grow peanuts in the area.
Bradley reportedly grew the peanuts on a plot of land east of where Portales High School sits today.
Terry said that among the findings were several Bradley family photos that told the story of early Roosevelt County peanut farmers.
Terry’s findings will be on display this weekend during the 41st annual Peanut Valley Festival at the Roosevelt County fairgrounds.
Bradley wasn’t Terry’s only find. He said he found that in 1942 there are records of a peanut crop so vast it filled every building at the fairgrounds to the ceiling.
Terry said this was during a time that the U.S. military contracted local peanut processor Taylor McCasland to purchase peanut crops for use in troop rations during World War II.
Terry said that at the time meat was not as abundant and the military used peanuts as a substitute to provide troops with the protein they needed.
The United States wasn’t the only country receiving peanuts from Roosevelt County farmers, Terry found. Twenty rail cars full of peanuts were sold by Taylor to Russia to be used in their troops’ rations during World War II as well.
“That one is one that very few people know,” Terry said of the Russian peanut deal.
Terry said his findings included the transitions the peanut industry has seen over the years like technology improvements and fluctuations in demand.
Terry will present all of his findings in a slide show format over the duration of the peanut festival. The slide show will chronicle the Roosevelt County peanut industry from 1914 though the 1980s, according to Terry.
Terry said he will also leave a sheet out during the peanut history showings so those who watch can help to identify subjects in some of the slideshow’s photos.
Terry said, “Hopefully people will see stuff that they remember and we can get some photos (identified).”