Peanut mill gets new life

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

A new business venture near Floyd hasn’t sent Greg Dyer to the nuthouse yet — but he said he’s been close.

Dyer, who left sales and marketing at Bordens Peanuts in 2000 for the tree nut business in California, has reopened the Sundale peanut mill northwest of Floyd, calling it Sweetwater Farms.

“It’s not our first rodeo, but it sure seems like it,” Dyer said of the years-worth of work he’s put into getting the mill back in shape in time for this year’s harvest.

“Everything we touched … just needed work,” Dyer said.

Dyer started and still operates High Mesa Inc. in Acton, Calif., which processes and sells a variety of nuts, including pistachios, almonds, pecans and Valencia peanuts grown in eastern New Mexico.

When Dyer took over the former Sundale mill last fall, it hadn’t been operated since 2002 and repair work and cleanup was needed everywhere. The sampler, where peanuts are taken from a truck or trailer to be graded, had fallen down in a windstorm, and office ceilings were falling in.

This season, he figures the mill will process about a million pounds of peanuts. High Mesa sells about 5 million pounds, so Dyer already has a California market for the peanuts he’s processing.

“My dream will be to take this place to 10 million pounds,” Dyer said.

Dyer said he’s not looking to compete on the same level with Sunland Peanuts, instead he wants to give growers an alternative.

Peanuts just crack the surface as far as what Dyer plans to do at Sweetwater Farms, though. He plans to install pecan cracking and shelling machines in one of the buildings at the farm. The cracker has arrived and other equipment is expected in the next three weeks, just in time for this year’s pecan crop.

Dyer said the equipment will be able to crack up to 4,000 pounds of pecans a day. He figures on getting everything from the person with 50 pounds of nuts from their back yard tree to small pecan orchard growers.

“To me it’s just a piece of the puzzle,” Dyer said of the custom pecan cracking. “We’re not interested in competing with the big boys, we just want our little piece of the market.”

In addition, Dyer is getting the certifications to crack and process organic pecans.

Key employees for Dyer are Lane Paddie and Steve Fears.

Paddie has experience with pecan processing in San Saba, Texas, and said he’s grateful for the opportunity to help the business grow from the ground floor.

“Everybody seems pretty happy that we’re here,” Paddie said. “The neighbors have come by to visit, it’s been great.”

Dyer said the contacts he had from being in the business previously in Portales, along with the friendly attitude of the area, have made opening the business more than worthwhile.

“We’ve been greeted with open arms,” Dyer said. “I think people like alternatives. We provide those alternatives and people welcome that.”