Everything is coming up peachy in Morven.
The 24th annual Morven Peach Festival is set to take place Saturday, May 21. On top of all the arts, crafts and food booths and baking contests, most importantly there will be peaches.
The peach industry is big business in South Georgia. After all, the state is referred to as the Peach State.
According to University of Georgia Cooperative Extension at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, there are two major commercial peach-growing regions in Georgia. The central region is the largest peach-growing region with 1.6 million peach trees. The southern region of Georgia, which includes Morven, produces about 30 million pounds of peaches annually.
And so far this season things in the Morven peach industry are looking good.
“It’s been really good,” Barbara Lawson said. “We needed a little bit more rain, but we’re thankful for what we got. The size is not as favorable, but the peaches are good.”
Last year Lawson Peach Shed, which has been in business since 1968, opened a few weeks later due to overcast days and cool nights. This year, the cold winter helped the peach crops.
“The cold weather helps (the peaches),” Lawson said. “If the peaches are in full bloom, we don’t need cold weather before 40 or 35 degrees. We need like 750 chilling hours for all of the fruit to make. So, we did get it. We had a good hard winter.”
So far, according to Lawson, the peach business has been doing good. Not only has shipping and the retail market been doing good, but Lawson Peach Shed’s ice cream business is doing great.
“I started making ice cream in my churn,” Lawson said. “Just a little dollar store churn, just for us, and everybody loved my ice cream. All of the other peach sheds up north, in North Georgia, were making peach ice cream.”
For a couple of years, Lawson made ice cream and people began asking if they could buy it.
“When I didn’t have it, people would ask for it. A pastor friend — Pastor Walden Sr. — of mine said, ‘Barbara, you need to build an ice cream place here.’ I just really considered it and did it. I’m amazed. I’m really, really amazed.”
But for now, Lawson Peach Shed is getting ready for one of the biggest days of the peach season — the Morven Peach Festival.
“We’re making sure we save ourselves some of our biggest and prettiest fruit for the peach festival,” Lawson said. “It’s a wild day. It’s a great day, it really is. It’s busy. Memorial Day weekend is coming up. We have plenty of really good watermelons. I have a really good source out of Florida and my husband grows watermelons and cantaloupes, too. We have our own blueberries, and we get Georgia tomatoes here. We just have good fruit.”
Fast Peach Facts
— Fresh Georgia peaches are available only 16 weeks each year.
— Georgia growers produce more than 40 commercial peach varieties.
— In 2009, 10,212 acres of peaches were grown in Georgia.