As a farm reporter with retired farmers for parents, we’re always interested in seeing agriculture in other parts of the country, and this trip to North Carolina offered several opportunities to learn first-hand about them.
For starters, after we left the Outer Banks on Friday morning, we headed across Roanoke Island and back to the mainland (where, by the way, there are signs along the highway telling people not to feed the bears). I had found a peanut farm during my pre-trip research, and planned to stop by and learn a little about peanut production.
Our stop at Bertie County Peanuts, located right in the middle of North Carolina’s peanut belt, included a visit with a peanut farmer and peanut buyers, as well as an opportunity to watch a short video about peanut harvesting. We’d missed the peanut harvest literally by a day. The farmer who’d stopped in while we were at Bertie County Peanuts had finished the day prior, and would have been more than willing to show us how they harvest peanuts.
As the farmer and my dad chatted about peanut production (they generally get about 2 tons of peanuts per acre, but this year was an exceptional year for them and some farmers harvested closer to 4 tons of peanuts per acre), I picked out a canister of “Blister-fried” peanuts to bring back to Worthington. I’m waiting for just the right occasion to open them — maybe they’ll be a snack for the family Christmas gathering.
While we missed out on seeing an actual peanut farm, we were quite intrigued by other crops we saw along the road. A couple of farms were growing turf grass, and several more had these branches with fluffy white stuff stuck to them. Yes, my parents and I saw our first cotton fields.
Later that day, we arrived at the North Carolina State Fair (a sudden addition to our excursion when we learned it would be the first full day of the fair on the day we’d be passing through.)
The fair offered us another new experience. They were doing a tobacco-tying demonstration while North Carolina’s agriculture secretary talked of how important tobacco production is to the state’s economy.
Dad spent the afternoon watching the demonstration, even helping out when they needed a volunteer from the crowd to help them soak tobacco leaves. He was disappointed we didn’t get a picture of him soaking leaves, but Mom and I walked around the entire fairgrounds, admiring especially the crops exhibit that featured ginormous sweet potatoes (more than 10 pounds), monstrous watermelon (196 pounds was the largest), and entries you wouldn’t see at a Minnesota fair, like persimmons and tobacco leaves.
After several hours and loads of information about North Carolina’s culture (you can learn a lot from a state fair), we took the shuttle back to our car and headed out of Raleigh.
Our trip was still three days from completion, and though we knew we’d be spending much of that time driving, we paced ourselves with a few more stops along the way. On Day Nine of our travels we toured the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., in the morning and admired the exhibits at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., that afternoon.
On the 10th day, our final day of this incredible journey, we started out at 6:20 a.m. from
our overnight stop in Mount Vernon, Ill. Mom snapped photos out of the passenger side window as we passed the St. Louis Arch (I’d never seen it before), and we spent about an hour in Mark Twain’s boyhood hometown of Hannibal, Mo., getting one last lighthouse marked off my list (the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse stands high on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River).
We made it back to Worthington at about 8:30 that night, logging the final 700-plus miles of our journey. With the exception of Dad doing a bit of Iowa driving on the way out, and Mom doing a bit of Iowa driving on the return home, it was me behind the wheel, getting us through several major cities, over two very scary bridges (both crossing the Ohio River — entering Louisville and exiting Paducah), through one underwater tunnel and onto two ferries.
It was a fun-filled, exhausting journey, but what an adventure it was!