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Verdict on chickpeas: the crows love ‘em

South Boston News
James Brown in his chickpea field
SoVaNow.com / July 25, 2013
The results of Halifax County’s experiment in chickpea production are pending, but local grower James Brown has learned at least one thing: as much as people may say they like the taste of chickpeas, crows seem to like it even more.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. I guess those things must be good,” said Brown, who drew national media attention, including a glowing report in the Wall Street Journal in April, for planting the chickpea crop in his Mount Laurel fields this spring.

The Wall Street Journal report, “Hummus Is Conquering America,” noted the alternative crop potential of chickpeas — the main ingredient in hummus, a Middle Eastern-flavored dip and spread. Brown, who is raising chickpeas under the direction of Virginia State University Extension, is testing the crop side-by-side with the tobacco, corn and soybeans he raises at his farm.

Brown is awaiting more information from VSU on how the crop will be harvested and marketed — his chickpeas will be sold to Sabra Brands, a Richmond-based food company — but he’s already come to some conclusions about the crop.

One: chickpeas are like soybeans, except the plant produces one pea to the pod, unlike three or four as one might get with soybeans. Two: the crop has done well during this moist Southside spring and summer. Maybe too well. That’s where the crows come in.

“The crows have messed it up so bad, I’ve probably got an acre left.” (He started with around four.) In most of his fields, “the crows pulled it up so bad it wasn’t even worth it for me to fool with it.”

Brown says that whatever happens to his crop this year, it’s likely he’ll give chickpeas another whirl next spring. This time, though, he’s planting closer to his home.

“I’ll keep a shotgun in my hand for the crows,” he said.

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