There were peach jams, peach/fig preserves, peach salsa, peach hand pies, peach ice cream, peach slushies, and peaches by the peck or the bag. There were hats with peaches, tshirts with peaches, and earrings made out of grits in the shape of peaches. There were peaches rolling along a conveyor belt and boxes of peaches being loaded into a truck bound for Boston. White rockers lined the wide, shaded veranda of the Dickey Farms packinghouse and sales pavilion. Huge ceiling fans provided a breeze as we sat in a rocker and enjoyed a just-picked, juicy, ripe Georgia Peach.
Started in 1897, Dickey Farms is located about 45 minutes west of Macon, GA, on Old Hwy 341 in the small “blink and you’ll miss it” town of Musella. The white, clapboard packinghouse is the oldest continuously operating packinghouse in Georgia, built in 1936. We stood on the veranda and watched as workers sat in the shade and inspected peaches for blemishes while the mechanical part of the system sorted for size and delivered uniform peaches to workers who boxed them up for shipping. Once boxed up, the boxes of peaches were placed on pallets and a forklift loaded them into a Dickey Farms truck for shipping. I watched one of those peaches enter the system and end up on a pallet, I would estimate it took less than 10 minutes to get packed and within an hour that peach had made it from field truck to shipping truck.
The farm maintains 110,000 peach trees in orchards sprinkled over a 20-mile area. They have planted multiple orchards in varied locations to diversify exposure and safe guard against disastrous losses during late freezes. They grow 19 different peach varieties which ripen at different times in the season. Each tree is picked three times, only picking peaches when they are ready. From mid-May to Mid-August, you are pretty much guaranteed a ripe peach on the porch at Dickey Farms.
The third-generation peach grower Mr. Robert L Dickey greeted visitors to the veranda which overlooked the sorting and packing area. He and his son, Robert L Dickey, III run the farm now. But we got the sense that Senior Mr. Dickey’s most important job now is greeting visitors and sharing his enthusiasm for peaches and peach products. Mr. Dickey was clearly proud of his peaches and was particularly fond of the peach fritters available for sale. The fritter was good, but the peach hand pies were exceptional (and it didn’t make it very far down the road).
Dickey Farm ships many of their products year round. Fresh peaches are shipped starting around June 15 when the free-stone varieties ripen. Peach season is usually over by the middle of August.
Did you know?
-The first known peach came from China.
-A medium peach has only 38 calories.
-The Georgia peach production started between 1870 and 1875
-There are three general varieties of peaches, clingstone (early in the season), semi-free stone (mid- season), and free-stone (from middle of June to end of season in August).
-When buying peaches you should avoid rock-hard peaches and select ones that yield slightly to pressure along the seam.
-If the peaches aren’t ripe, don’t put them in the refrigerator. Just put them on the counter at room temperature. Once ripe, then you can place them in the fridge. To accelerate ripening, put the peach in a sealed paper bag.
For more information on peaches and on how to order products and peaches from Dickey Farms check out their website at www.dickeyfarms.com.