Of all the peanuts grown in the United States approximately half of them come from a 100 mile radius of Dothan. The National Peanut Festival is held each fall to honor peanut growers and to celebrate the growing season.
Peanuts are farmed on nearly 200,000 acres in southern Alabama, along the Gulf Coast from one side of the state to the other and as far north as Hale County.
The peanut is a plant of the legume, or pea, family, and its seeds form in pods. Peanut plants grow to just over one foot in height and spread about three feet. Peanut plants are self-pollinating, meaning that both male and female flowers appear on the same plant. Once the flowers wilt, the flower stalk grows down into the ground about an inch deep, where its ovary develops into pods containing the nuts, or seeds. Once the seeds mature, they can be harvested. Harvesting is a two-part process. First, a digger with a four-to-six inch horizontal blade is driven down the rows. This loosens the plants from the root while a shaker lifts and inverts it, exposing the pods to sunlight. Once the pods dry out for a few days, a combine or thresher cuts the pods from the vines, places the pods in a hopper on top of the machine, and replaces the vines and stems on the ground, where they serve as moisture-retaining mulch. The harvested pods are then placed in drying containers to cure, reducing their moisture content to around 10 percent.
Four major types of peanuts are grown in the United States: runner, Spanish, Valencia, and Virginia. Runner peanuts, which make up nearly 50 percent of all peanuts grown in the United States, are the primary peanuts grown in Alabama, as well as in Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma. Runner peanuts account for 70 percent of the food market in the United States, with more than half of runners used to make peanut butter and the rest going into candy or sold as roasted snack nuts.
To celebrate the harvest the festival is held at the fairgrounds in Dothan. It is located on Hwy 231 South, just three miles south of the Ross Clark Circle. At the festival there are amusement rides, animal acts, agricultural displays, live music concerts, beauty pageants, arts and crafts displays, contests, food, and a parade.
Dothan is known as the “Peanut Capital of the World”. The festival to celebrate the peanut began in 1938. The festival ran yearly until 1942 when it was suspended due to WWII. In 1947 it began again. Today the event is a 10 day celebration.
5622 Highway 231 South
Dothan, Alabama 36301