While spreading a thick layer of peanut butter on a sandwich, it's easy to overlook one small thing - in Georgia, peanuts are big business.

But for most of us, our consideration of peanuts and peanut butter doesn't go beyond the preference for crunchy or smooth.

It is with a video camera and endless perseverance that Joseph Barnhart is hoping to alter our perceptions of an industry that largely shies from the agricultural limelight in a documentary set to release next year.

"I randomly started filming the peanut planting process back in 2010, when peanut prices were at an all-time high," Barnhart said.

"Then, after that, I started researching and realized there was no film production on the subject of peanuts and peanut butter, so I decided, why not go ahead and follow that process?"

Having grown up on a small farm outside of Augusta, Barnhart has spent the past few years filming the in-depth documentary "Growing Peanut Butter," in which he follows the peanut production process from farm to table.

Covering topics from ancient and modern history to farming sciences, Barnhart says the documentary is important to Georgians, especially since the industry and product are both mainstays in agriculture production throughout the state.

Just last year, Georgia produced 50 percent of the country's peanut crop from its 730,000 acres of farms that span more than 70 counties, including Effingham, Bryan and Bulloch, according to the Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Peanuts.

For Barnhart, who suffers a debilitating nerve condition that makes it hard for him to balance, among other disabilities, covering such a large industry is no small feat. With the help of friends and family, he has filmed and traveled across the state, all for the project and a beloved industry.

"This is one way to give back to the farming industry," Barnhart said, "And to help educate people about that in a positive way."

Scott Tubbs, an associate professor and cropping systems agronomist at the University of Georgia, said he'd only recently heard about the film and has since been helping Barnhart get in touch with players in the industry.

"It sounds like a very interesting project. I don't know anything else out there along these lines," Tubbs said. "I think it's very useful for educating the public. I think it's going to be a good thing, a useful thing."

Through Kickstarter, Barnhart is hoping to raise $12,000 to complete his project by early next year.

"It's amazing the level of support I've had across the industry and statewide," he said. "It's one of the things that makes it worthwhile."

Editor's note: The print edition of Do Savannah contained information about a screening in September that has now been canceled because Barnhart and his crew lost part of the footage from the feature trailer. Barnhart said in a statement: "We will continue to move forward and have other exciting updates. To keep updated, find us on Facebook or via our website, growingpeanutbutter.com."


⢠730,000 planted acres across Georgia

⢠Georgia produced 1.7 million tons of peanuts

⢠More than 70 of the 159 counties in Georgia planted peanuts

⢠Peanuts account for more than 20 percent of the state's agricultural income

⢠The Georgia peanut industry supports 50,000 jobs statewide

Source: Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Peanuts, 2012