Fort Valley is a small southern town in central Georgia with a population of almost 9,000 people. It is a place with friendly residents many of whom have known each other for generations. Fort Valley is the epitome of southern charm. It is not uncommon to see folks sitting outside on their porches sipping sweet tea on a warm summer afternoon. The city is home to Fort Valley State University as well as the Blue Bird Company, the large manufacturer of school buses.
The countryside in and around Fort Valley is lined with both peach and pecan trees some of which are over a hundred years old. Peach trees were planted in this area long before the Civil War. After the war ended along with the abolition of slavery, farmers began to consider other crops to plant instead of labor-intensive ones such as cotton. Peach trees were a perfect fit for this area because of the clay soil, the hot humid summers and cold winters which are needed to grow the perfect peach.
Fort Valley is nicknamed “Georgia’s Peach City “and at one time was called the “Peach Capitol of the World.” During the 1960’s more than 50 sheds were packing peaches throughout Fort Valley and in Peach County. These packing sheds have been replaced by two large modern-day facilities, Pearson Farms and Lane Southern Orchards. California has since surpassed Georgia in peach production.
According to the USDA, Georgia currently grows more than 80 million pounds of peaches each year of which 75% are grown in Fort Valley and Peach County. Most of the peaches grown in Georgia are sold either in wholesale markets or roadside fruit stands with very little being used for processing. Although Georgia has not been the leading producer of peaches for decades, it is still known as the Peach State. What is it about Georgia peaches that makes them so famous? If you ask most Georgians, they will emphatically tell you that Georgia’s peaches are the sweetest and most flavorful. Stephen and Jessica Rose will not disagree with this.
Stephen grew up in Fort Valley and never gave much thought to those delectable peaches grown in his hometown.They were simply a way of life and peaches were eaten year-round in his household. In the summertime they were eaten fresh and, in the wintertime, they ate cobblers using peaches they froze. Stephen’s wife Jessica grew up in Seattle and she was accustomed to eating fresh apples, berries, and cherries from Washington State. Like Stephen, she understood the taste difference in eating locally grown fruit picked at its flavor peak.
In 2010, Stephen and Jessica moved to Nashville. During this time, Nashville was beginning to gain notoriety for its diverse culinary scene. Stephen and Jessica loved the vitality of the city and the food enthusiasts. Despite the culinary eruption happening in Nashville, Stephen found it impossible to find that flavorful peach he was grew up with. Instead, what he found in the supermarkets were either bland, unripe, or mealy. Much to his surprise, none of them carried Georgia peaches in their stores despite the proximity to Georgia.
In 2012, Stephen and Jessica went back to Fort Valley for a visit to his hometown to meet family and friends. It was at that time, that Jessica tasted her first Georgia peach picked right off the tree. She had never tasted such a sweet and mouth-watering peach which led to her eating two more. Jessica even snuck a few more of them in her bag before she left.
It was on that same visit that Stephen and Jessica were visiting with family friends the McGehees. The McGehees are fifth generation peach growers for Pearson Farms. They began discussing the difficulties of getting those sweet juicy peaches into consumers hands. Stephen and Jessica shared the peach dilemma they had in Nashville. It was during that conversation, that the idea came about. What if they could eliminate the middleman so customers could eat fresh picked peaches at its maximum sweetness? It happened right there on the porch among family friends with no formal plan or contract, the Peach Truck was born.
During that first summer, Stephen and Jessica kept their full-time jobs working Monday through Friday. They would spend their weekends and evenings working at The Peach Truck. Those early days were tough. There was a 6-hour drive between the farm in Fort Valley and their home in Nashville. It took some skillful coordination to find places in between both cities where they could meet the trucks to pick up their peaches. In the beginning, they were loading small quantities into Stephen’s 64 Jeep Gladiator and taking them up to the Nashville. Hence, the name of their company The Peach Truck.
They worked hard that summer selling those Georgia peaches in various outdoor markets throughout the city. They also contacted their favorite restaurants to see if they could generate any interest. At first, many of them were skeptical so the Rose’s gave them a complimentary box to sample. It did not take long for people to catch on. By midsummer, they were selling out every week and by the end of the summer Stephen and Jessica sold almost 20,000 pounds of peaches. They knew they had something special and before the start of the following season, they quit their full-time jobs to focus on growing this business.
In 2013, Stephen and Jessica launched the Peach Truck Tour with the help of a few friends and a fleet of semi-trucks. Every summer from May through July, the Peach Truck Tour visits cities throughout the South, Midwest, and Northeast selling Georgia peaches in 25-pound cartons to excited customers.
This summer, the Peach Truck Tour made appearances in 11 states traveling to more than 200 cities selling out of fruit with pre-orders by the time the trucks arrived. They have also shipped thousands of cartons of fresh peaches to customers nationwide.
In addition to the tour, The Peach Truck peaches are available at outdoor markets and are served in restaurants throughout Nashville. According to the Rose’s “Nashville no longer has a peach problem”. For more information on the Peach Truck locations and availability you can visit their website.
Be sure to try some of the Rose family’s favorite recipes they have shared with me.
- White Pizza with Peach, Pancetta and Chile
- Peach Caprese Salad
- Grilled Wings with Peach Bourbon BBQ Sauce
- Rose Kids Baked Oatmeal
- Peach Pecan Sticky Buns
- Skillet Peach and Blueberry Cobbler