Ross Terry, vice-president of I.C. Terry Farms in Lake City, Fla., has coined a phrase that he likes repeating: “Things happen here that don’t happen anywhere else.”

When you consider an average peanut yield in 2011 of 5,800 pounds per acre, with no irrigation, during a hot, dry summer, he may be right.

Ross, along with William and James Terry, are the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award winners this year for the Lower Southeast Region. I.C. Terry Farms is truly a family affair, with Ross being a cousin to brothers William and James.

“We’ve been farming this land since right after World War II,” says James. “Our descendents go all the way back to 1882, and we now have a sixth generation coming up on the farm.”

The Terry’s farm about 2,500 acres and have about 200 head of cows. “We control-breed, turning the bulls in at the first part of January and taking them out at the first of April,” says Ross. “Then, we plant about 160 acres of peanuts — only what we can take care of ourselves. We grow rye for winter grazing, harvest it and then sell the seed.

“Our peanuts follow bahia grass. We plant them three years in a row in a field and then tear up another grass patch. We’ve been growing peanuts like this all of our lives, and we’ve found it pays to rotate. We’ll plant a grass patch and then maybe in nine years, we’ll tear it up and plant it back in peanuts.”

Of the Terrys’ 160 acres of peanuts, 80 made more than 6,200 pounds per acre last year, with one plot making more than 7,200 pounds per acre. Their grades averaged about 76.

Bill Thomas, retired Columbia County, Fla., Extension agent who has worked with the Terry’s for many years, says only a few area growers use such a system, but it has worked extremely well for I.C. Terry Farms.

“Other farms just don’t have the mix that the Terry’s have,” says Thomas.

“We have a lot of farms with a lack of rotation, and the economy dictates a lot of that. We used to have soybeans, corn, cotton, peanuts, tobacco and other crops, all of which you could make a net from. But the prices kept falling, and there were only a few crops left that were profitable, so rotations went away.”

Soils also dictate much of what farmers in the area can do, he adds.