The Virginia Peanut Story, mainly filmed in the Sussex and Surry area, relates the accurate tale of the rise and fall of Virginia and the North Carolina peanut industry.
Surry resident and independent film producer Amy Drewry recently sat down to talk about her six-year labor of love set to air this week on WHRO-TV.
Drewry explained that the film follows the story of how peanuts, initially held in low regard, eventually helped give rise to the golden age of agriculture. The growth was aided by railroads and returning Union soldiers after the Civil War. Drewry interviewed a diverse group of people connected to peanuts through the years as they shared personal experiences and stories passed down from their parents and grandparents of rural, agricultural life in the Tidewater area.
“Beginning in South America 5000 years ago,” Drewry said, “we show how peanuts traveled the world and came to the American South. Viewers will see two culinary historians, Michael Twitty and Andrew Smith, tell some of the deep histories of the peanut. You’ll see a very diverse group of local farmers and others from Sussex and Surry talking about their love of peanuts. We filmed older farmers reminiscing about what it was like farming peanuts behind mules. We have the story of Amedeo Obici, the man who started Planter’s Peanuts. We even went and interviewed scholars about George Washington Carver and his deep connection to peanuts.”
“I love the film because of the people that are in it,” she added. “It pays homage to the generations of farmers and shellers and marketers and families and community that all depended on the peanut crop - which was the cash crop here in this area for over 100 years.”
The Virginia Peanut Story, for which Drewry gives much credit to Western Tidewater Virginia Heritage, Inc and The Virginia Humanities for assistance and grants, will be featured several times this week. On Nov. 13, the Mayor of Norfolk will introduce Drewry and her film at a reception and screening at the Slover Library, 235 East Plume St, Norfolk, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The screening is open to the public. The film will then be broadcast for the first time on WHRO TV on Thursday at 9 p.m.Subsequent showings are Saturday at 4 p.m., and Sunday at 7 p.m.