Take away a wreck and Joe Ward might be wearing a business suit instead of blue jeans and a cap.

Armed with a degree in textile economics degree fresh out of North Carolina State University in the early 1970s, Ward was headed for a job interview in Charlotte, N.C., when an automobile wreck took him in a different direction.

“I didn't make the interview and I came home and started farming,” Ward says. “My uncle had retired from farming and asked me if I'd rent his land.”

He's still using his economics degree to sort out the complicated everyday issues of farming. Ward, the 2004 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award winner for the Virginia-Carolina region, grows 270 acres of peanuts. Last year he had an average yield of 5,100 pounds per acre.

In the early 1980s, he saw the yield benefit of twin rows. Faced with recurring drought, he began a move toward irrigation. Now he has more than 4 miles of underground pipe that brings water to his crops. He's also installed a center pivot irrigation rig.

Today, Ward, 56, farms with his son, Brian, who himself, returned to the farm after a stint in college. Along with his wife, Peggy, and long-time employee Allen Berryman, the Wards farm in Tyner, N.C.