On today’s episode, we got to speak with Marshall Rabil, of Virginia-based, female and family-owned Hubbard Peanut Company, aka HUBS. Many years ago, in the small Virginia crossroads village of Sedley, Dot Hubbard developed a unique way to cook the Virginia peanuts grown on her father's farm. She diligently used only the finest peanuts from the local harvest. Today, Dot's recipe for using only the best remains unchanged. Sedley is pretty close to the NC border - directly east of Virginia Beach. Virginia has become well-known for its gourmet peanuts, with farmers in the southeastern portion of the state producing millions of pounds each year. The legume, commonly referred to as a nut, is enjoyed raw or boiled. The Virginia Peanuts stands out from the other peanut varieties in both size and taste; they are the largest peanut, are more flavorful than the three other varieties, and have a characteristic crunch when eaten. Virginia Peanuts are commonly called the “Ballpark Peanut” because they are the peanut variety sold at baseball games across the country. Find Hubs Peanuts: https://www.hubspeanuts.com
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Here in the south, we love our peanuts. We eat them straight from the shell at baseball games, and even on road trips dropped inside a cold bottled coke. Some call them pinders, goobers or even ground peas. Ground peas is actually a good description because they are technically legumes and are quite nutritious. Half of them grown in this country are grown in Georgia, but they are also grown in Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida. According to the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, there are four major types produced here: the larger kernel Virginias, the medium sized runners in the lower South, small Spanish peanuts in Texas and Oklahoma, and Valencias in New Mexico. Today we are featuring a Virginia peanut company that has been a family business since 1954. Hubbard peanut company or hubs peanuts are some of the largest and tastiest peanuts I have ever tasted. Meet you at the table as we discussed this tasty, Southern grown treat.
I'm Lainie and I'm Laura Beth and we are Steel Magnolias; the strength of steel with the grace of a magnolia. We are here to have uplifting conversations about life in the south.
And we've got plenty of room at our table, so pull up a chair.
Welcome back to the table where we're talking legumes. Did you, now be honest, did you know that peanuts were actually legumes?
I have known that in the past just from reading something about them before. And you know, they’re protein, so I knew they were nutritious.
I just don't feel like I hear the word legume very much unless I'm literally looking through like a list of dietary things that you need to increase or decrease in your for consumption. I just people just aren't using legume much in average conversation. So true. Well, as you mentioned, we're going to focus on Virginias today. But it's kind of crazy to think how well known Virginia has become for gourmet peanuts. There are farmers in this in the southeastern portion of the state specifically that are producing millions of pounds each year. And, as we've mentioned, many, many, many times here before, this was not a crop that was native to our country, it came over with slaves. Right, right. And so it has certain sorts of properties that certain soils make better conditions for than others. But it was originally more in the, like Spanish and Portuguese traders, transported them from South America, to Mexico, and then to countries across Africa and Europe.
That's right. I know I've made a recipe for peanut soup, and it's supposedly an African recipe, but I'm like, sure that was made once that that crop came here, too.
Yeah, yeah. So you know, I just like to give nods to the fact that we're very aware that this isn't like we don't have the corner of the market on peanuts, for sure. But Virginia has found a way to do them very well. And we're excited to share with you guys more about Hubs peanuts, I got the chance to speak with Marshall Rabil. He is in the family that began this business. It is a Virginia based female owned and family owned business and it just is started in this small Virginia Crossroads village of Sedley. Sedley is pretty close to the North Carolina border. So down in the southeastern portion of the state, so super small town and a woman, a matriarch of the name. Dot Hubbard developed this unique way to cook the Virginia peanuts that were grown on her father's farm. She diligently used only the finest peanuts from the local harvest, and today Dot's recipe for using only the best remains unchanged. So the Virginia peanut stands out from the other peanut varieties like you mentioned in the intro, there are there are different varieties in that stands out in both size and taste. They are the largest peanut and they are more flavorful than the other three varieties. They have a characteristic crunch when eaten. If you have been to a ballpark, this is the peanut that you have consumed Virginia peanuts are commonly called the ballpark peanut. And out of the total peanut production in the United States, Virginia peanuts make up about 15% annually. Well, like I said, Georgia, I think does 50% of all of the peanuts, but they're not these big ones.
So I had a very fun time talking to Marshall Rabil. He is in the family that began Hubs, and it is a family owned, but also female owned operation. His mom is at the helm of the business right now. And I just think you're gonna really enjoy my conversation with Marshall. I learned a lot about peanut harvesting. And I think you guys will, too. So here is my conversation with Marshall.
All right, well, good morning, I'm getting to sit here with a new friend, Marshall Rabil. And he is part of the family of Hubs peanuts out of Sedley, Virginia. We're really excited to have been introduced to you Marshall and your family and your team there. Because you were kind enough to go ahead and send us some samples ahead of our time today. So we've already been munching on those and I can tell our listeners with a wholehearted up haul. These are some really, really good peanuts. So we will start just with where you and the family and the team are, which is in Sedly, Virginia. Whereabouts in the state is that and tell us a little bit about that area of Virginia.
Sure. Well, thank you so much Laura Beth for having me. I'm really excited to be here as well and we've and we very much appreciate the opportunity to speak to you. I'm certainly Virginia is in Tidewater, Virginia, which is kind of the southeast part of the state. It's it's a beautiful area, a lot of rivers swamps that flow in, we're in the middle of of two watersheds. So we're in between the James River watershed and the Albemarle watershed. So really a lot of great water access and beautiful farmland, great sandy soil. It's flat, perfect for growing a number of crops. Obviously, peanuts flourished here and still do. But, Sedley is a small little crossroad country town in South Hampton County, about 10 miles from the big city of Franklin, Virginia, where I grew up and live today.
All right, so it's what's Franklin, like, tell us about that. We're from Franklin, Tennessee, and you're in Franklin, Virginia sounds like Sister Cities.
Very much. So I can actually live in Franklin, Tennessee for a little while as well and loved it. But it's very much a different community. Franklin, our main industry was a large paper mill, the camp family started union camp here. And that was our major employer. We're a town of about 8000 people. But the paper mill really brought a lot of a lot of people to our community. And so many services and industries grew up around that mill, International Paper now runs that mill and that's still kind of the lifeblood of our economic segment of our community outside of agriculture. But it's a it's a quaint little town about 45 minutes west of Norfolk, Virginia. So we have access to a lot of Hampton Roads, stuff and Virginia Beach Norfolk about an hour south of Richmond. So we've got Small Town Living but access to some major cities as well. So for me, I love the pace of life, no traffic, not find any any of that to get to and from work or wherever we're going. So it's beautiful, beautiful farmland, great rivers, and yeah, it's just a nice, nice community.
It sounds wonderful, absolutely. Wonderful. Well, I want to know a little bit about your grandmother, who is the matriarch that started this peanut company. Can you tell us a little bit about her?
Sure. Well, my grandmother, her name is Dot Hubbard. And it's still like I think about it today. It's remarkable that a lady in the 1950s who had four children and she was a school teacher, she was able to to start a business out of her home and thinking back on that I'm a parent now of two and just it really is remarkable that she was able to pull this thing off with her husband with four little kids running around her feet and and on delivery trips with her but so she she was a school teacher. And she had a unique way of cooking peanuts. where she was literally handpicking the largest peanuts she could out of her father's farm and she would soak them in hot water and then fry them in oil and she would give them to some of her sorority sisters and give them to friends for the holidays. And and then they started asking her for and so my grandfather was a you know what I think we were on to something here, Dot. You've got a really great recipe and I think we can do something here. So they they started getting other people in the community of Sedley to help them skin, the peanuts, and so they would hand totes off to the ladies and sadly, this hand skin these peanuts, and then my grandfather started taking them to the local hardware store in the pharmacies. At that time, the only game in town was Planters peanuts, and they were selling planters for a nickel. Oh, my grandfather thought you know, well, Hubs is because they were they were the Hubbard's and so they quickly became Hubs peanuts, that they were twice as big that they tasted twice as good. So they should be twice as expensive. And so he started selling dime bags of Hubs, to the pharmacies in the hardware stores. And that's kind of how it started. It right here in town and Franklin, Southampton County. And then it just it organically grew through the years to mail order business. And we've always kind of been a direct consumer business since then.
Wow. And if I'm remembering correctly, this is your mom's mom. Correct. And so then your mom started working in the business as well.
She did. My mom's been there for a little over 40 years. I think she came in in 1979. And so it's cool. Like we started Hubs in their home, a little five room home in Sedley, Virginia. My mother's office was actually her childhood bedroom that she shared with her twin sisters. So we really are this like kind of homey business. We're in a residential neighborhood. And we just bought and put our warehouse and our kitchen on the existing property that they had. And once we outgrew that space, we had to expand into Franklin. But my mother has been running the company for the last 40 plus years and right out of her childhood bedroom. So it is it's kind of a unique situation there.
That is incredible. And is that home still in use as part of the business?
It is it's our main office is basically their home. So when you first walk in the door, you're in the living room and our accountant, as in our first kitchen, my mother's office was a veteran. And so yeah, it's and we've we've obviously grown from there, but it's, it's still very much our original home.
Wow. That is too cool. Well tell us a little bit, you know, I'm not a farmer. And I'm going to be guessing that a lot of our listeners might not be too well versed in how peanuts grow and how they're harvested. So you talked a little bit about, you know, the land there that you guys are being important. Can you tell us just I mean, how do peanuts grow? And how are they harvested?
Sure. Well, in the springtime, April May we usually plant peanuts, in Virginia in particular. And in the southeast Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina throughout the South. The soil is great. It's great sandy soil, it's hot, humid climate, and it's perfect for the Virginia type Pina. And that's what we grow here and South Hampton County. And so they're they're planted in April, May. And they're harvested late September, October. And so the growing season is throughout the summer. Peanuts are great because they are drought resistant. And so they don't require nearly as much water as other other crops to which is one of the reasons I think they're the most sustainable food sources that we have. And so they also take nitrogen out of the atmosphere, put it back into the soil. So they're nitrogen fixing. And instead of, they kind of grow on a book and then grow down into the ground, on on vines. And so when they're harvested, those vines are turned upside down. And they dry in the field for about a week before they're picked off of the off of the bonds. That's the that's the conventional way of farming now. And you had mentioned the single origin variety, which we can get into and that's a different way of harvesting altogether. Kind of the old fashioned way, which is cool, too. Yeah.
So before we even jumped on, I was telling Marshall, how much I loved this can have single origin, as they call it. And they are a special specialty item for you guys. Tell us about those.
Yeah, so hubs in general, I think is a split especially we only use the top 1% of the crop all grown and the VC Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina region. And so we work with a lot of different farmers. But the single origin project is especially unique because we are working directly with Alicia Barnes is a fourth generation peanut farmer. And he is still shocking peanuts are stacking them the old fashioned way, which is very labor intensive. So after we have the growing season through the summer, when it comes time to harvest, and he it's still very manual with a pitchfork where they're going row by row and they're turning the peanuts upside down after the after their duck and then stacking them on poles, which is what he calls shocking. And then there's sun curing for about six weeks. So they're currently still in the fields drying right now. And it's a, it's a sun cured process that thanks makes the peanuts taste a little bit sweeter. And it's really just a labor of love. And it's a way that he is preserving the history and culture of, of peanut harvesting the old fashioned way. Currently, peanuts are picked off the vines and then they are dried and trailers. But this is kind of a really special way of doing it. And so it is a very small batch specialty item for us, because there's only so much that you can still shock and make requires a lot of different people a lot more people to harvest. And so it's a really cool project that we've done with them. Yeah.
So does Elijah show others how to do this? Like, how is this being preserved?
Yeah, so I mean, we we've done videos of him doing the harvest, and we try to educate our customers about what that looks like. We actually have some visitors coming in one of our friends who has a combat company, they're bringing people in from Argentina and Brazil, this Friday to show them kind of what the old fashioned way was. Because back in the well all throughout the 18th 1900s. This is what the landscape looked like in the fall. Elijah said, you know, when he was a boy, they used to take two weeks off a school and they would just go around helping each other harvest peanuts. And that's just part of what it was like, and obviously with technology and equipment improvements, that's made it a lot more efficient to grow many more acres, but he is continuing to showcase this to people. He's talking to schools. We're doing our videos and various publications have picked up this because it is it's kind of just a cool way to preserve history.
Absolutely. Why do you think Virginia is the top producer?
Well, Virginia is where when peanuts first came back to the new world. They came from from Africa, literally on the slave ships in the late 1600s, early 1700s. And this is where they first took root. As our country was developing peanuts were actually a food that was grown around the slave quarters for slaves to eat and for for pigs for pig feet. So it's really an interesting crop that has gone from a food that we were feeding pigs for the great Virginia hams to now we have a specialty category like this, but the sandy soil is ideal for growing peanuts. And we used to be Southampton county used to be the number one producing peanut growing county in the country. Now in the 1980s with farm bill and variety of subsidies that has changed a little bit and Georgia now grows more acres of peanuts, but they grow a different variety they're growing to a Georgia runner which is really good for oil or for butter and or candy where what we're doing here in Virginia is really is nice for the specialty for the cocktail peanuts or the in Shell peanuts that you need to ballgames and things of that nature. So it's just really great soil and in that's ideal growing conditions for for the Virginia type peanut.
Wow. Okay, I have a question for you that I know is a divided topic What are your thoughts on boiled peanuts?
Well, I love boiled peanuts it's a very different snack altogether it's a mushy like being that and right now the the best time to have boiled peanuts is right now at the harvest when you get a green peanut and there boy now I know that gas stations around the South do them throughout the year but they are really at their peak right at the harvest with the green peanut and that's and I have some of my refrigerator right now. I'm a fan but it's a very different snack altogether. Now, I mean as far as like what am I going to eat every day I'm definitely going for just a handful of hob salted peanuts over a boiled peanut. But, as a treat, I do like I do like a boiled peanut. I'm not gonna hate on them at all because I'm sure
What are some of your favorite peanuts of the products you guys offer?
I really I guess I'm a purist or simple. I love our plain salted peanuts. It's kind of you still they'll get the good peanut the nice crunch, but it has a little bit of salt. And, and then our chocolate covered peanut is my next favorite. And that's a special item that we actually are doing that all ourselves right now we're cooking the peanuts on on Monday. And on Tuesday we're coating them in chocolate and I'm putting them right in cans. And so they're super fresh, really good. And so my favorite two products are our salted peanuts, and then our chocolate covered peanut for sure. But a salted peanut, I eat that every day. It's like my perfect 1030 In the morning, pick me up my 230 in the afternoon if I'm going on a hike or a bike ride, or we're having a beer, a peanut, the salted peanut just goes well with everything.
It sure does. It sure does. Well, there are so many people that are listening to this that are very much outside of Virginia. Where can people find Hubs?
Well, you know, we we've been a direct consumer brands since our inception. And so we still think the best place is to come right to our website, because we can ship cases all over the country. And it's really becomes a lot more advantageous to buy like a four pack or a 10 pack from a shipping standpoint. And so, hubs peanuts.com is definitely the best place. But we do have a number of specialty markets and mom and pop stores around the country that sell Hubs and we love working with them as well. So depending on where you live, there might be a nice, a nice specialty market that carries hubs. But for the most part, if you can check us out on the website. That's that's your best bet for every variety, every can pack every size, every case size and all that good stuff.
Okay. Now, before we jumped on, I think you told me you've got a couple of kids. I'm just curious, do you think this is going to stay in the family? Or is there any spark of entrepreneurial spirit you've already seen yet? Or what's what's the thoughts there?
Well, you never know, right? I mean, you always kind of hope that you can pass something down. I've been really enjoyed working for the family and the community and trying to continue this. It's cool my daughter is our youngest. And she can see when whenever she saw a canopy and she recognized our logo and said peanuts. And this was when she was you know, two years old. So it's cool that she's understanding the brand recognition and the brand value of what a can of peanuts looks like and what Hubs represents to her. So who knows. It's been fun to be in our family and our fourth generation is actually bigger than our third generation is already so we'll see how see how it goes.
Wow. Well, congrats to you guys. I can tell the hard work in the labor has been in the family for years. So we're just grateful to know you guys and share more about you guys, with our listeners. I've learned a lot today about peanut. And just thank you so much for your time. Marshall, thank
you so much.
You guys are awesome. And I can't thank you guys enough. I'll be linking to everything in our show notes so that our listeners can find you guys.
Marshall, Peace be with you.
And also with y’all.