Canadian peanut pioneer proud of his family business

James Picard Senior doesn’t recall ever taking a sick day.

You can find him working around his store in Windham and out back on the farm. That’s amazing when you stop to think that this man is in his early eighties.

“I like the business. I go to work every day,” he explains. “I don’t believe I’ve missed a day of my adult life for work. Not one day of my life. If I am sick, it’s usually on Christmas Day.”

He doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon either. He lives a very healthy life and considers himself lucky.

Picard Senior can be described as a Canadian original. He’s the one and the only pioneer of peanut farming in Canada, who with his son Jim Picard Junior by his side, launched Picard Peanuts Ltd. in 1979 and opened the first Picard Peanuts Store on Highway 24, north of Simcoe, Ont.

Wanting to switch from growing tobacco and other cash crops on his Simcoe farm, Picard Senior said he turned to peanuts and hasn’t looked back since.

The family-owned business is not only dedicated to producing top-quality peanuts that come from the farm to your snack bowl but being a revolutionary leader in peanut farming techniques.

What makes Picard Peanuts special is the peanuts that come from Ontario soil and everything in the store is made fresh daily. They offer every kind of nut you could think of from chocolate covered, to beer nuts, pistachios and peanuts. They also offer 14 different types of brittles, chocolate covered raisins and other snacks.

“We have 170 different things we make, and they’re all made in smaller batches, we’re a small food company,” he says.

What Picards Peanuts is most proud of though is its combination of two all-time favourite snack foods. Chips and nuts have merged together to make the famous Chip Nut. After 500 test batches, and two years of tweaking the formula, Chip Nuts made their debut in the early 1990s.

Nothing goes to waste either, with unusable peanuts made into bird feed or turned into mulch for gardens.

Today, the family business is run by Picard Junior, with stores in Windham, Morriston, Woodstock, Arva and Fonthill.

A second location just a little over 3,000 square feet is under construction in the Niagara Region. The expansion on Concession Road near the corner of Garrison Road in Fort Erie is something the Picards are excited about.

“We like the area.  We have a very successful store in Fonthill that has been booming the last couple years, so we wanted to expand on that,” Picard Senior says.

Fort Erie is the perfect spot because of its proximity to Niagara Falls, Ont., and Buffalo, NY.

“We’re not Tim Hortons, but we wanted to get a few more locations. It’s a nice looking property there so we bought it. It’s also in a tourist area near the border so it’s perfect.”

Picard Senior has a good feeling about the new business’ new location. To start off, they expect to hire one to three employees for the grand opening, which is expected just in time for the Christmas holiday season.

For anyone who’s never had a taste of Picard Peanuts, Picard Senior says there isn’t anything quite like it.  

All of the product is made just days before it is delivered to one of Picard Peanuts locations, meaning a customer can walk into a store and buy something that was made that week.

“The big guys just can’t do that.”