Tanna Farms peanut power – transforming lives with the humble peanut

When Australian peanut expert, Dr Graeme Wright, visited the Tanna Farms peanut growing operations in early June he was blown away by our peanut potential. Graeme is a quiet kind of fellow who knows a thing or two about peanuts. To say he got very animated and excited about the Tanna Farms organic peanut “story” is an understatement. You could say he went nuts!

“Tanna is probably the most fertile place I have ever been in the world. It’s got huge peanut production potential. The natural conditions are perfect for peanuts and the soil is unbelievable, just beautiful soils … magic fertile soils!” said Graeme.

Tanna Farms is excited by Graeme’s enthusiasm too. The humble Tanna peanut has been a game changer for Tanna Farms post Cyclone Pam. This fast growing 90-day crop filled the economic breach while our coconuts were re-growing. It meant that our local farmers could keep earning much needed cash for their families after the devastating category 5 tropical cyclone smashed through Vanuatu.

With some quick clever thinking, Tanna Farms turned the situation around. We started buying local peanuts and the Tanna Farms manufacturing workers shifted from producing “The Good Stuff” organic virgin coconut oil to also making our delicious “Crushed It” peanut butter and roasted peanut snacks.

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Without peanuts, Tanna Farms would have really struggled to keep operating and local jobs would have been lost. Instead peanuts have transformed our little Vanuatu company with our popular organic peanut butter flying off Vanuatu supermarket shelves, and it has opened-up potential export opportunities to New Zealand and Australia. We knew we were onto a good thing, and now peanut expert Graeme has confirmed it.

Hailing from the Kingaroy in Queensland, a place Australians like to call the peanut capital of the world, Graeme has been growing peanuts and studying peanut breeding for over thirty years. His work has taken him to far flung peanut places around the world, including the developing economies of India, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. He’s seen a lot of peanuts, growing in all types of situations.

Which is why Tanna Farms wanted to work with Graeme. We wanted solid, practical advice for our Tanna farmers to take their peanut growing to the next level. On Graeme’s three-day whirlwind trip to Tanna, we took him high up into the lush tropical mountains to meet our peanut growers and see their methods first hand.

“The trip was really interesting and it was great to see these organic peanut plots and meet local growers. Here everyone is involved in growing and hand harvesting. They are using the same methods their grandfathers used. It’s a family effort. Mum, dad and the kids are digging the peanuts out of this magic pristine soil, plucking the pods and bagging the nuts.”

“Peanuts are a huge global crop and 98% of peanuts grown around the world are grown using pesticides. Everyone has different methods, challenges and opportunities. In Tanna, I was really impressed with the pristine environment and fertility of the soils. You can grow anything here and you’re growing it without sprays.”

“With a few easy changes to local farming practices there’s huge potential to increase production for the same amount of labour. With increased production comes increased employment and increased economic benefits which means positive spin offs for local communities. Tanna’s peanut potential is very exciting.”

To make the most of Graeme’s peanut expertise, we ran a one-day practical workshop with key Tanna peanut husband and wife farmers in Lenakel. They in turn, will then share their knowledge on to other peanut farmers in their communities.

Key to the new learning, was the message to not compromise on organic, low technology methods but to work smarter. The workshop topics included organic best practice for peanut crop density, spacing, weed control, disease control, planting times and crop rotations.

The farmers then planted out a trial plot using their new knowledge and planting techniques. In 90 days’ time the trial plot will be harvested and the yields and quality of the nuts compared with an adjacent plot that uses traditional methods. Graeme is predicting big things for us, and we’ll keep you posted on how are trial peanuts are growing.

For Graeme and Tanna Farms this research and capacity building trip was immensely rewarding. He got the chance to experience our island hospitality, and we were inspired to ramp up Tanna Farms organic peanut production and take Tanna “peanut power” to the next level.

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