One of the many benefits of growing up in Middle Georgia is knowing where your food comes from. Knowing who grew it, where they grew it, and how they grew it. I cannot think of a better “know your farmer” situation than knowing the Pearson clan, especially since they grow this Farmer’s favorite jeweled delights of summer’s bounty – peaches!
Now that peach season is in full tilt, I journeyed out to Zenith and Lee Pope, Georgia (suburbs of the metropolis Fort Valley, mind you) with some out of town friends. They wanted peaches and I knew just the spot. This farm is my go to spot for peaches. I send my clients “thank you” baskets from this farm full of peaches, pecans, or whatever is in season, for I know that a gift from their farm is always in good taste. I wanted my friends to see the old schoolhouse turned packing shed, taste the best peach ice cream, and experience the sights, smells, and tastes this place offers. If you’re anywhere in Middle Georgia this summer, do stop by!
We traversed and travailed up US Highway 341 from Kathleen to the farmland straddling Peach and Crawford counties where the soil is imbued with the elements and nutrients favorable for peaches. In fact, this belt of soil in western Middle Georgia is so conducive for peach production, that the area has donned our fair state with its marvelous nickname - “Peach State.”
Lawton Pearson and his first cousin Will McGehee are fifth generation peach farmers – fifth generation! That’s incredible! The history, legacy, and tradition in this family is quite admirable. Genetics play a major role in peach production, and I can safely say genes play an equally significant role with this peach farming family as well.
When I was out at Pearson Farm last week, Will and I took a stroll through the test rows of new peach varieties. This is where knowing your farmer has its perks: Will stopped, took out his pocket knife, and sliced open a peach just waiting for us. I could hear the peach juice gush as the knife broke through. I sampled this newer peach, ‘Fiesta Gem,’ and I still cannot stop thinking about how good that peach was. The sweetest, juiciest, literally “off the tree” most perfect peach! It was like eating the season in that wedge of peach. Partly that variety, partly right off the tree, but mostly experiencing first hand that this farming family knows their crop – knows what peach is best – when and where – and sometimes that “when and where” is right off the tree in the middle of an orchard.
Just before the orchard tour, we had just had some of Mrs. Betty’s cobbler in the packing shed. It was divine! Yet, that particular peach was the sweetest, juiciest, most delicious peach I have ever tasted. I told Will he and Lawton needed to plant a million acres of that peach! It was absolutely phenomenal! Interestingly enough, the drought is partly to blame for the sweetness.
“We are in a severely dry season this year and the sugars in the fruit are more concentrated rather than diluted, thus the peaches taste sweeter and are a bit smaller this year.” Will said. With Middle Georgia approaching week thirteen of no rain, we’re praying for it every day! At least the peaches are sweet!
Last summer, I had the opportunity to cook a Peach Dinner out at Pearson Farm – a time to celebrate the goodness of the land with friends and family. After visiting Mr. Al and Mrs. Mary and chatting with Will this summer, I’m confident this season is just where it needs to be – primed with peaches. From the Peach Fields of Middle Georgia to you, happy summer!