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Mormon peanut farm fortifies faith’s welfare system

Under a grueling sun, about 25 men whacked at weeds between rows of peanut plants covering massive fields of sandy, red soil on a Saturday morning this summer.

A picnic awaited them under the shade of a pavilion before an hourlong drive back to their families in San Antonio.

These volunteers, who visit monthly, lower the overhead to run this relatively secluded 1,800-acre peanut farm that has been owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since the 1960s. Elsewhere, the harvest is made into peanut butter, some of which goes to disaster-relief efforts worldwide.

Its more common purpose is food to help down-and-out Mormons make ends meet, part of the church's eight-decades-old social welfare program. Rooted in historic Mormon values of self-reliance and preparedness, the welfare system has one condition: Those who receive help do volunteer work in exchange.

“There is a great danger in just giving out something,” said Joseph Wilson, a peanut farm volunteer who received Mormon welfare more than 20 years ago. “Most people want to work for what they get and be a contributor rather than just a receiver.”

Read the rest of this story at mysanantonio.com
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