At the end of the 1970s, Ernie Racz and his wife Nancy Racz, started to look for an alternative to tobacco growing. The mild climate and sandy soils of Southwestern Ontario, where they had previously grown tobacco, were perfectly suited to commercial peanut farming.
In the beginning, they began with a small test plot and then added acres every year until they peaked at 150 acres in the mid-1980s. Harvesting prooved difficult, and the Raczs had to experiment with different methods of harvesting and drying. Finally they put the peanuts into the kilns that were left over from the tobacco days for drying.
Today, they own the largest peanut growing business in Canada – Kernal Peanuts. The family farm now also contains an entire peanut manufacturing, wholesale and retail operation. They manufacture and sell various peanut products, such as peanut butter, chocolate peanuts, salted peanuts and much more.
The Raczs stopped growing tobacco altogether in 1986 and have since then encouraged other tobacco farmers in their region to try peanuts as an alternative crop.
Kernal Peanuts is also tackling sustainability issues: All the buildings on the farm are heated with an outdoor wood furnace, which is fueled with peanut shells and wood. The wood system dries the peanuts in the kiln during harvest and also supplies the farm with hot water. The waste peanut oil from the roasting procedure is recycled and is used for fuel in the farm tractors.