Valdosta Daily Times

Business

May 16, 2010

Berry Peachy

Berry, peach season attracts customers ready to pick

VALDOSTA — Warmer temperatures are here and that can mean only one of two things — summer’s coming and the peaches and strawberries are ready.

When the peaches and strawberries are ready, it is time for the you-pick, or u-pick, operations to open.

U-pick farms have become vastly popular during the last 20 years, not only as a place where families can spend the afternoon together, but as a business.

Overall in South Georgia, there are several u-pick operations offering everything from strawberries and blackberries to peaches and homemade ice cream featuring some of their products.

At Southern Grace Farms, which has locations in both Valdosta and Berrien County, strawberry season started several weeks ago.

Southern Grace Farms has a u-pick location in Berrien County. In Valdosta, the business offers u-pick strawberries. Already picked strawberries and blackberries are also offered during the season.

Strawberry season was delayed slightly due to the last cold snap of weather in February, according to Laura McMillian.

“It delayed our season probably three weeks, possibly four weeks, because (with) blooming in February like they do, it was so cold,” McMillian said. “We had very few blooms. Maybe one another year that has happened, one year out of 10. But when they came in, they came in good.”

According to McMillian, April and May are the opportune times for strawberries.

“We usually try to stay open until the end of May because Memorial Day is the best time,” he said. “Usually around the 15th and 20th, our blackberries will come in and a lot of people want the blackberries.”

In the next county over, Brooks County is famous for Morven’s annual Peach Festival, which took place Saturday.

Just outside Morven on Highway 94 is Lawson Peaches, an establishment that has been in business since 1968.

Lawson Peaches opened for business a little later this summer, on May 6, due to the weather.

“We usually open before then but the peaches were a little bit later this year,” Barbara Lawson said. “It was the overcast days and cool nights. They can keep peaches from being ready.”

The delay didn’t hurt Lawson Peaches. It made them better.

“We actually have a 95 percent crop this year,” Lawson said. “This is the best crop we’ve had in 15 years.”

Lawson Peaches draws customers from not only South Georgia but from surrounding states.

“Actually, we ask where they’re from and they blow our minds,” Lawson said. “Florida, some come from North Georgia, Alabama. A lot are passing through going to Disney.”

While Lawson Peaches hasn’t had a lot of u-pick peaches in recent years, they do open the orchards to allow the public to pick their own peaches.

“We open the orchards because people expect to pick a peach,” Lawson said. “So we kind of cut ourselves short, just so they can pick a peach. This year, we should have some u-pick that are quite plentiful, so usually in the middle of June to the latter part, we have u-pick.”

Besides peaches, Lawson Peaches grows cotton, soybeans, peanuts, pecans and more. The business also makes homemade peach ice cream and peach milkshakes.

“Everything is peach,” Lawson said.

While Lawson Peaches is not expanding just yet, Lawson would like to eventually make the business an open farmer’s market.

“It’s a certified farmer’s market now, but I want to open it up, move the equipment down and this will be an open farmer’s market and it will be really nice,” Lawson said.

But Morven isn’t the only place with peaches.

A short drive from Morven is Burton Brooks Orchard in Barney.

The orchard, which has been there for 35 years, sells mostly peaches, but also sells nectarines, cantaloupes, blueberries and vegetables such as squash, tomatoes, eggplants, corn and Vidalia onions.

“We have peaches through the month of July,” Lynn Abbott of Burton Brooks Orchard said.

About 75 percent of the business’ customers are local people, Burton said. They offer u-pick later in the season.

Just across from Burton Brooks Orchard is Luck and Moody Peaches, which sells not only peaches but tomatoes, onions, squash, zucchini, green beans, and different peas.

“Our most popular item is homemade peach and blueberry ice cream,” Stephanie Luck said.

Luck, the daughter of owner Lou Gene Luck, said people travel from other states for the ice cream.

“We get most of our business locally but we do get a lot of people out of state as well that come by and they continue to come back each year,” Luck said.

Luck, who says that her mother has always wanted to expand the business,  said that business has been good so far this year and that the peaches are excellent.

“I think (customers) appreciate coming out to your roadside stands,” she said. “You’re getting a fresher peach.”

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