Ex-President was a Peanut Farmer

"I Love You" Peanut Butter

Peanut “roots” in the Carter family

The popularity of and curiosity about the peanut grew significantly during the successful 1976 presidential campaign that put Jimmy Carter in the White House. The image of the peanut in caricature was seen around the world as a symbol of not only a president, but also the towns of Plains. Born in 1924, James Earl Carter, Jr. grew up on his parents’ 360-acre farm. In Carter’s early years, his father began growing peanuts, a crop that made a great impact on his life. His family first raised the small Spanish peanuts, which were used as salted nuts, in candy bars, and some varieties for hog feed. At the age of five, Carter sold boiled peanuts on the streets of Plains.

When Jimmy was growing up on the farm, three acres of land produced a ton of peanuts, generating about sixty dollars in income, which for the time was excellent return. During harvesting season, every able bodied person was needed for the peanut harvest. Of this experience, Carter later wrote:

When Earl Carter died in 1953, his son, Jimmy, resigned from his career in the U.S. Navy to return to Plains to manage his father’s farm supply business and several hundred acres of land. Jimmy later decided that instead of just buying and reselling certified seed as his father had done in his business, it would be more profitable if he started growing the peanut seed himself. The increased income enabled him to expand the warehouse operation. Carter’s Warehouse not only included sale of certified seed peanuts, but it also included the service of supplying liquid nitrogen, bulk fertilizer and lime. The warehouse also bought corn, provided custom grinding and mixing, and ginned cotton. Fire and casualty insurance were also available through the Carter agri-business.

On the farm in Plains, Georgia

While he serves as president, Jimmy Carter placed the family farm supply business into the protection of a blind trust before he left for Washington, D.C. in 1977. This trust allowed for a law firm in Atlanta to take full administration of the farm supply business during his years in the White House. The carters felt that relinquishing the business to someone else’s care would separate them from these affairs and avoid the possibility of their financial holdings resembling any conflict of interest while President Carter was in office. Their personal counsel, Charles Kirbo of the Atlanta law firm, was their financial trustee. Following the election loss in 1981, the Carters were informed by Charles Kirbo that because of three years of drought and several changes in warehouse management, they were over $1 million in debt.

As they struggled to recover from the unexpected financial blow, the solution to their problem became evident. The Carters sold the family business and also began writing books, which helped them recover financially.