Page 26 - 2018Magazine3
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peach industry. According to      over the same time frame. For      conditions. “There’s an art to
        McGehee, in 2010, there were      the first time in more than eight  knowing the precise time to
        about 664,000 peach trees         decades, the peach industry is     pick a peach when it has
        planted on about 5,000 acres in   booming in Georgia.”               gotten all the sugar it’s going
        Georgia. Today, there are just                                       to get, but before it starts
        over one million peach trees      The Art of Peach Picking           getting too soft,” he explains.
        planted on 7,727 acres in         So what is it about peaches        “You can’t learn this in a book.
        Georgia. “That is more than 50    grown in Georgia that makes        We all watched our dads and
        percent growth in just seven      them so good? McGehee says         granddads do this and now
        years,” he says. “And the         there are three main factors       we’re passing on this
        average FOB price for Georgia     that can be boiled down to         knowledge to our kids.”
        peaches has risen by 36 percent   experience, climate and soil         As for climate, McGehee
                                                                             says that while hot, muggy
                                                                             summer nights are pretty
                                                                             miserable for humans, they’re
                                                                             ideal for growing peaches.
                                                                             “When it stays hot for 24
                                                                             hours, sugar production never
                                                                             stops,” he says. “This has a lot
                                                                             to do with the flavor profile of
                                                                             a Georgia peach.”
                                                                               Finally, the area of south
                                                                             Georgia where peaches are
                                                                             grown — known as the Fort
                                                                             Valley plateau — is on the edge
                                                                             of the granite outcropping of
                                                                             Stone Mountain and the start
                                                                             of the coastal plain. “This
                                                                             results in a deep red clay that’s
                                                                             rich in minerals and nutrients,
                                                                             which is a big factor in the
                                                                             consistently high quality of
                                                                             Georgia peaches,” says
                                                                             McGehee.
                                                                               Lane says the turnaround in
                                                                             the Georgia peach industry
                                                                             wouldn’t have been possible if
                                                                             each of the family peach farms
                                                                             hadn’t been willing to put
                                                                             their egos aside and work
                                                                             together. “We have a great
                                                                             group of growers,” he says.
                                                                             “By cooperating with each
                                                                             other, we’ve been able to
                                                                             reverse the fortunes of this
                                                                             industry and hopefully
                                                                             preserve our family farms for
                                                                             the next generation.”

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