By Eric Butler
If Burton Brown comes across a sack of black-eyed peas from the Texas Panhandle while he’s stationed in Iraq, he’ll have Debbie Nickels of Muleshoe Pea and Bean to thank for the reminder of home.
Brown, son of Mac Brown of Muleshoe and Jama Meritt of Lubbock, is in Iraq with the 490th Army Civilian Reserve unit.
Nickels recently helped strike a deal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ship black-eyed peas from the Texas Panhandle to the war-torn country.
“We noticed that black-eyed peas weren’t being offered. So, at a vendor conference in Missouri, I had a chance to speak with the chief procurement officer (for the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service),” Nickels said. “I just reminded him that they might like black-eyes.”
Nickels said 2.2 million pounds of black-eyed peas from Panhandle farmers were combined with 1.2 million pounds from California for the shipment to Iraq.
Gary Glover, who owns a farm 10 miles west of Muleshoe, said his peas were part of the shipment.
“We need to look for other markets, besides domestic. We need to try to move them out of the country also — it’s a good product,” he said.
“As far as Iraq is concerned, the people over there need some help. I hope (the peas) get distributed. That’s what I worry about more than anything. If the wrong people get their hands on it, it doesn’t get to the people who need it.”
Told about the effort by her friend Nickels, Meritt wrote her son with the news. She said that, if, by chance, Burton runs across a bag of black-eyed peas marked “MPB (as in Muleshoe Pea and Bean),” she wants him to know where it came from.
“He may never get any of the peas — they’re not for him; they’re for the people — but it does bring a connection. When I found out about this, I had tears in my eyes. I thought it was a great thing,” Meritt said.