Halifax Co. Farmer Tries Growing Unique Crop

Clover, VA - With the help of the Virginia State University affiliated Cooperative Extension, farmer James Brown is trying to grow chickpeas at his farm in Clover.

James Brown says he knows very little about the crop. But he's hoping that if he is successful, chickpeas will become a new staple for growers in Halifax County.

Brown has grown all types of crops; from tobacco to wheat.

"I don't know anything about growing chickpeas. I don't know anything," Brown said.

Brown says representatives from VSU's small farm outreach program approached him about the unique crop. He decided to give it a shot on a small portion of his more than 300 acres of land.

"I told them I'd try it to see how it works out," Brown said.

Chickpeas are used to make humus, a popular spread with origins in the Middle East.

Sabra Dipping Company makes humus and just opened a Richmond plant in 2010.

Sabra officials say they hope local farmers will start growing chickpeas to alleviate their dependence on farms in the Northwest and cut down on shipping costs.

Extension agent Chris Brown says the Clover farmer's trial and error effort could open doors for other farmers in Halifax County to add a new cash crop to their list.

"That's going to be the key factor as to whether it's successful close the market is, what they're willing to pay," Chris Brown said. "Tobacco looks good, the outlook for tobacco is good, but it's always good to have a different option to diversify your operation."

For farmer James Brown, it's all about taking it one day at a time to see just where this experiment will go.

"If chickpeas work it'd be nice. We'd have another item to work with. I think it would help a lot," Brown said.

James Brown says he has toured the Sabra plant in Richmond and hopes to work with them after his partnership with Virginia State has ended.