HOW MANY DIFFERENT THINGS CAN YOU MAKE WITH PEACHES? LET’S FIND OUT!
Where The Food Comes From visited Lane Southern Orchards, nestled in south Georgia in Fort Valley, at the peak of peach season in June. Established in 1908, Lane Southern Orchards has been growing peaches and pecans for over 100 years. Located West of I-75 exit 42, Lane Southern Orchards has become a popular tourist destination boasting more than 350,000 visitors a year between May and August with another busy season around the holidays.
You may ask, Why would we go to a tourist destination? Well to visit the Peachtree Café & Bakery for starters (more about this later). The café specializes in “good ol fashion Southern cooking.” From lunch specialties to their famous and signature Peach Cobbler.” Side note — check out the WTFCF Cookbook for this fabulous recipe. Or simply relax and sit down a spell in the rocking chairs or swing, eating a peach ice cream cone or just enjoying the scenery.
OFF TO THE ORCHARDS!
Even the beautiful peach orchards did not give us relief from the 100-degree weather. But what surprised me the most was the lack of gnats — or so I thought. You see, there is some kind of unwritten rule that below Macon, GA gnats are as common as fleas on a dog. But the closer you get to Macon, the gnat population decreases. Being somewhat of a skeptic I really did not buy this for one minute.
But I quickly found out this is true. You see, our previous shoot took place in Cordele GA, a future episode which is further south, and we may as well have eaten gnats for lunch. They were all over and around us. Flying in our eyes, going into our ears – yeah pretty disgusting. I did manage to find gnat spray which did help a little, but you really had to layer it on. Once again I digress: Let’s go back to Lane Southern Orchards. We arrived at what seemed to be some sort of collection spot for the peaches.
Here, we just kind of wandered around waiting to go into the fields. But my focus was watching our Director of Photography Jordan Hicks fly the drone over the peach fields. How far away the orchards were I don’t know. I find the drone to be pretty fascinating and am thrilled when I can look into the lens and see what is happening.
The scene that unfolded in front of my eyes can be seen during the episode. I was watching a train of sorts, with harvesting bins behind it and driving between the rows of peach trees. The workers must have heard the drone buzzing overhead and kept looking up. If it were me I would have probably thought it was some sort of alien ship. My secret hope is that someday Jordan will let me fly the drone – fat chance of that happening.
LET’S VISIT THE PEACH ORCHARD!
Like I said, the beautiful peach orchards did not give us relief from the 100-degree weather. Even the shade did not help – just ask Chip’s mom, Jo Carter-Harbin, and her friend Vicky Peavy (it was take-your-mom-to-work day). They decided to park themselves under a peach tree but continued to sweat buckets. I felt really bad for them, but it was time to focus on the peach groves.
Picture rows and rows of meticulously groomed peach trees. You could actually smell the peaches; what a wonderful scent. I thought I could feel a slight breeze, but at this point it was probably my imagination.
Chip’s interview took place with Marc Sanchez, CEO Lane Southern Orchards, under one of the peach trees – probably hoping to catch the imaginary breeze. The interview went well, but there were some key points that caught my attention. One being why a peach tree is slightly open in the top-center, as if someone had scooped out the middle?
I think I heard the answer right. It is called “open center.” Basically, this is a method of pruning a young tree to bring in more light which helps peach production.
Did you know peach trees have a life span? The production span for a peach tree is 12-15 years, but peak production is in years 4-8. So Lane replants roughly every seven years.
But Lane doesn’t just grow peaches — they’re also a major player in pecans — and those trees produce for 200 years or more.
So is there a practical way to grow peaches and pecans on the same land? Just plant them next to each other!
Peaches and pecans can live happily ever after. The pecan tree will just be old enough to produce as the peach tree next to it stops. Instant pecan grove. And ready for the next round of peach trees to come in alongside. (Piece of trivia: Lane Southern Orchards has a pecan tree that is 75-years-old and still producing. That’s a lot of pie.)
As the interview was taking place I did my famous walk about. The most frustrating thing for me was when I was trying to get a picture of the workers picking the peaches off the trees. They were moving like, “a bat out of torment,” one of Chip’s favorites phrases.
Fast forward: When we were previewing the episode from our editors, we saw great shots of the workers picking the peaches — which you really couldn’t catch in real life!. How did this happen? Technology: The crew has better cameras than I do. I can’t take a slow-motion picture with my camera. But, for every problem there is a solution. Mine? Have Styles Wilson, Production Manager & Post Production Supervisor, pose for a picture picking a peach.
Remember what I said about the gnat population being less in Fort Valley than in Cordele? I was only partially right. When we got back in the car I looked down at my shins. Guess what? My shins were covered in dead gnats that drowned in the sweat on my legs. So gross! I quickly got a napkin and wiped them away, but I wish I had gotten a picture of that.
LET’S GO EAT – WELL ALMOST!
This is short sweet and simple: the packing house. Only part of the crew was allowed in the packinghouse for sanitary reasons; good for Lane Farms, but not good for me. One of my favorite places to visit are the packinghouses. There is always something interesting going on, a corner to peek around, and always something I get to ask questions about. Not this time, but rest assured I will get over it. Good news for you guys – it is in the episode.
FINALLY IT IS REALLY TIME TO EAT!
The first thing you notice when you walk into the Peachtree Café & Bakery and gift shop is the amazing aroma. Talk about salivating immediately. We all kind of knew it was bread; the question was what kind? Maybe we will find out…
We were brought into a private dining room decorated with Lane Southern Orchards peaches and boxes, but mine taken in my kitchen is pretty good too.
While the crew was eating lunch, Chip was chit-chatting with Lane Southern Orchards Marketing Director Wendy Barton. Now it was their turn to eat lunch. There were two very special guests joining Chip and Wendy. Remember Chip’s mom Jo and her friend Vicky who were under the peach tree running away from the sun and heat? Well here they are. They were excited about eating lunch with Chip and Wendy, but what they did not realize was they were going to be filmed during the interview. After the fact and when it was too late they found this out. They acted like they were not happy about it, but secretly I think they are.
After a filling lunch, Chip and Wendy went into the gift shop and talked about the history of Lane and the products they sell. I naturally was wandering around doing my thing. But I did join them in the kitchen. What an incredible and clean place. Chip was able to tour the entire kitchen, but we hung around the bread room. Remember that wonderful smell I was talking about? It was the Pecan/Cinnamon Bread – sorry the picture is crooked, I was trying to get the shot around Jordan.
Looking around the kitchen and trying to ignore the bread (remember I am sadly gluten-sensitive) my focus turned to the biggest mixer I have ever seen. Man it really puts home KitchenAid’s to shame. The bakers were winding down their day, but I did get a picture of them mixing the last loaves of bread. All I could think of was licking the bowl. I couldn’t take the temptation anymore so it was time for me to get out of there.
Our day was coming to a close, but a trip back to the dining room gave us all a big surprise. Chip was carrying in our own personal, fresh, hot Lane Farms signature Peach Cobbler. We all dug in. It did not disappoint. In fact, the crew made off with the leftovers to carry back to the hotel. So nope — I never got another bite!