Scott Seiler, 57, is a reserved family man with a passion for peanuts.
“We take pride in what we do, and we try to get a good product,” Seiler said.
Seiler is the current owner of Seiler Farms, a 1,000-acre green peanut farm in Ocala that started its harvest in June.
Matthew Gauding, a senior management analyst for the Florida Department of Agriculture, said peanuts make up 1.7% of Florida’s crops based on cash receipt value. Even though the percentage is small, peanuts impact Florida significantly, Gauding said.
The crop yields this year are less than last year, but the harvest has been going well, Seiler said. So far, Seiler farms has harvested about 120,000 bushels of peanuts, with each bushel weighing between 36 and 38 pounds.
The summer heat plays a big role in harvest season. If the peanut plants get too hot, it can stunt the peanuts’ growth. Seiler said the abundance of rain in Florida helps the peanuts. The more rain the better.
Because of this, springtime is the best time to plant peanuts.
The sandy soil of Marion County and surrounding counties is also great for growing peanuts. When harvesting, it’s easier to pull up the peanuts and fewer of them are lost in the process, Seiler said.
According to Laura Goss, the executive director of the Florida Peanut Federation, peanuts grow the best in north central Florida and in the Panhandle.
Even when the conditions are perfect, peanut farming is a tough job, Seiler said.
“We work 16 to 18 hours a day during the season,” Seiler said. “We play hard in the winter time, but we work hard when it’s growing season.”
During harvesting season, all the peanuts are picked by hand and gathered into large bins. Then the peanuts are separated, washed and hand-inspected. Next, the peanuts are put in a room to be dried and cooled. Finally, the peanuts are packaged and ready to be sold.
After planting and harvesting season comes and goes, the winter season is filled with preparations for the next planting season. Fertilizer and lime are added to the soil, Seiler said. Adding these to the soil restores the soil’s pH and increases the nitrogen in the soil. This is done throughout November, December and part of January.
Despite the long hours and the hot summers, Seiler Farms has been a family business for four generations.
The family started farming in the 1930s when Eldridge Seiler started growing green peanuts in Ocala.
“We didn’t just grow peanuts,” Seiler said. “We grew okra and squash and peas and other things besides just peanuts.”
Over time, because of labor issues, the farm started exclusively growing green peanuts. The current location, 7711 NW U.S. Highway 441 in Ocala, was established in 1972. In 2006, Scott Seiler took over the farm and officially named it Seiler Farms.
“It kind of gets in your blood, I guess,” Seiler said.
The quality product and service Seiler Farms provides gives the farm a lot of business. For over 30 years, Seiler farms has been the only provider of green peanuts to Ward’s Supermarket in Gainesville.
“That’s why they are our only supplier,” Ward’s produce manager Don Kieffer said. “They grow an excellent product.”
Seiler Farms’ peanuts are also sold at Piggly Wiggly, Winn Dixie and other locations all over the country.
The next step for Seiler Farms is to finish the harvesting season in late October and get the ground ready for planting season in the spring.