GFVGA Member Spotlight – Lane Southern Orchards

Produce Bites is a consumer outreach website hosted by the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. In order to show our readers how they can find ‘fun on the farm’ this spring and summer, we’ve decided to spotlight some of our member farms that are also agri-tourism destinations! Spend some time on the farm with your family this summer and eat Georgia grown fruits and vegetables.


Baby on peach crate

Are you looking to try a tasty, juicy Georgia peach? If so, Lane Southern Orchards is your go-to place. This farm has been growing peaches for more than 100 years! They are located outside of Fort Valley, GA. – just a short five minute drive off of I-75 at exit 142.

This farm was originally founded in 1908 by the Lane’s great-grandfather, John David Duke, and was named Diamond Fruit Farm. When asked how the farm turned into an agri-tourism attraction, Wendy Barton said, “When the family built an office on the farm for the sales team to reach out to grocery stores and smaller shops, they kept getting a knock on the door from people wanting to buy peaches.  They decided to hire a college student, get a picnic table and have the student handle the sales of the peaches to locals.  It then progressed to four rocking chairs and a few more peach displays.  When the peaches were graded every day, they decided to get an ice cream machine to offer ice cream to the locals and travelers that were stopping by every day.  When Ms. Caroline Lane had 15 ice cream machines in her kitchen, she said it was time to build something here on the farm for the customers to enjoy the ice cream and other seasonal fruits.  In 1990, the retail store was expanded to include the Peachtree Café, a gift shop and southern gourmet shop.  We currently have 40 rocking chairs and welcome over 300,000 visitors a year.”

 

rocking chairs         peach blosson        produce in market

 

The farm now consists of 2,500 acres of peaches, 3,500 acres of pecans, six acres of strawberries and a special patch of muscadines, scuppernongs and kiwi. This agri-tourism attraction allows the public to pick their own produce throughout the year and take farm tours to learn how the produce goes from the field to the table.

Lane Southern Orchards is hosting an exciting upcoming event that you won’t want to miss – the Spring Fling! This event is set for April 23, 2016 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m..  The Spring Fling is the farm’s way of welcoming springtime and visitors to the farm to pick strawberries at the beginning of the peak harvest season.  Activities include: a play area for the kids, a scavenger hunt in the strawberry patch, face painting, live entertainment and a class teaching you how to make strawberry preserves.  This is something the entire family will enjoy!

Other plans for the year include a Fourth of July picnic celebration and the Farm Fall Festival. The Fall Festival is in October and allows you the opportunity to visit the pumpkin patch and the five acre corn maze! Be sure to keep up with Lane Southern Orchards online to get details for these events.

This farm is a great location for nearly any affair! Children’s entertainment activities include the world’s tallest pinball machine, human hamster balls, bungee jump, Spider Mountain and many other supervised carnival games. There is enough to keep the children busy for an entire day; meanwhile, parents can relax in the shade under the pavilion while they watch their kids play. Lane Southern Orchards also specializes in company picnics, family fun days and corporate events.

Visit their website to learn more, and don’t forget to follow them on Facebook!


GFVGA Member Spotlight – Jaemor Farms

Three generatoins of the Echols family

Produce Bites is a consumer outreach website hosted by the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. In order to show our readers how they can find ‘fun on the farm’ this spring and summer, we’ve decided to spotlight some of our member farms that are also agri-tourism destinations! Spend some time on the farm with your family this summer and eat Georgia grown fruits and vegetables.


Jaemor Farms, a 350 acre property, is a successful family operation at the foot of the North Georgia Mountains in Hall, Habersham and Banks counties. It was recognized as a Centennial Farm in 2012, meaning the farm has been in the Echols family for more than 100 years!

When asked why the farm turned into an agri-tourism attraction, Drew Echols said, “When I came back to the farm 14 years ago, I had to find my own place in the family business. After many talks with my granddad, dad and uncle, we opened a corn maze. This year (2016) marks our 11th year for a fall corn maze, which really kicked off our ‘agri-tourism’ at the farm, outside of the roadside market that has always been at our farm. We have also learned that if the child will eat it, the parents will bring them to the farm to pick it. Three years ago we added two festivals to our schedule to capitalize even more on agri-tourism opportunities at the farm. It takes our entire team at Jaemor working together to make it all happen.”

This farm is special to Echols now, more than ever, because he is setting his children up for success if they desire to continue the family business. He understands that today’s youth are the future of agriculture. His children will be the sixth generation running Jaemor Farms if they so choose. Echols has enjoyed growing produce and selling it locally, and he hopes to pass this on to his kids.

Cohen and Chloe Echols, Drew and Shelly's children

This family business has two roadside markets where you can buy many of their products. You can visit the original market in Alto, GA., which has been open for 35 years. This is one of the largest roadside markets across the country! They have another fresh market located in Commerce, GA. as well. While visiting, be sure to grab a sweet treat fresh from their farm. The menu offers a variety of treats such as: homegrown produce, fried fruit pies, homemade ice cream, freshly baked breads, homemade cakes, jellies, jams and preserves. If you can’t make it to their market but are interested in supporting their business, visit their website to make a purchase! Also make sure you follow them on Facebook!

Fruitful peach tree at Jaemor Farms


How We Grow

plastic in field

*Post contributed by Southern Valley, a family-owned produce farm that is based in Norman Park, Georgia and supplies produce to Canada and all over the United States. 


How We Grow

*Written by Katie Murray

Organic.
Sustainable.
Local.
Natural.

These words fill up my Facebook newsfeed on a daily basis. Perhaps they fill up yours as well. Articles, opinions, scientific claims, research, advertisements, bashing, fear mongering – all aimed at steering the general public one direction or another when it comes to the food they buy, and ultimately the food they consume.

Still being the newbie here, I wasn’t fully aware of the ins and outs of our production practices at the farm in Georgia. After a lengthy conversation with a few individuals in the company who are instrumental in the day to day production, food safety, and environmental stewardship of the farm, I was reassured to find things as I already suspected them to be. Here are just a few of the practices we utilize to keep this place sustainable and here for the long run.

Let’s start with drip tape irrigation and plasticulture. Those words may mean very little to some of you, so let me explain. Drip tape irrigation runs water from the well down the length of each row of plants and soaks the soil along the way through holes strategically placed in the hose. This is in contrast to overhead irrigation (think a sprinkler) and decreases our water usage by approximately 20%. We use drip tape on all of our crops and not just for irrigation purposes, but also for distribution of fertilizers and any other soil inputs. We combine this practice with growing on plastic, which also allows for a decreased use of herbicides (to control weeds) as well as keeping the produce significantly cleaner and keeping the soil warmer during growing months. The combination of plasticulture and drip irrigation keeps the soil moist and allows for direct application of inputs to the plant root base. Typical plasticulture gets two crops off of one laying of plastic, some growers manage to get 4, we work to get 6. This means we only have to fumigate the soil once every 3 years, instead of each year. This practice is not without a higher labor cost to us since weeds must then be controlled manually once the plastic has some age on it.

We combine these two practices with crop rotation – changing what crops we grow in which fields, on a seasonal basis – which is step one to breaking up insect and disease cycles that plague crops. In addition to crop rotation, we also utilize beneficial insects and natural methods to control plant pests, without the use of pesticides (for pests). This method of pest control is commonly referred to as Integrated Pest Management or IPM. We use this in conjunction with a professional who comes to scout the fields twice a week minimum alongside our own horticulturalist. Together they utilize natural insect and disease control methods. When all else fails and an herbicide or pesticide must be used, because we have our fields broken up into small plots called zones, we can treat only the zone with the issue. Thanks to drip tape irrigation, we can treat that zone by applying the herbicide or pesticide directly to the soil. We work hard to use natural methods prior to synthetic ones, soil-feeding practices before soil-destroying ones, and individualized approaches over blanket approaches.

Finally, in keeping with the theme of healthy soil, we regularly feed our soil probiotics. Similar to a probiotic you would take for the human digestive system, these probiotics are teaming with microbial life – the good kind of bacteria. We also provide digestive matter for this microbial life in order to encourage its growth. Actually, an estimated 7% minimum of our production costs goes into keeping our soil healthy through microbial life. Just like the flora in our gut, we want lots of healthy microbial life in the soil of our plants.

These are just a few of the tidbits I found out about how we grow produce here at Southern Valley. What I suspected to be the case, turned out to be true. The overall heart and intent of Southern Valley is to combine sustainability with profitability. One of these elements without the other is sure to mean the death of the farm. This has always been Southern Valley founder and owner, Kent Hamilton’s, goal and aim. From the very beginning, he has fought to ensure that the soil that grows his produce is still here, healthy, and growing produce when his children and grandchildren are running the farm. These aren’t new trendy methods for Southern Valley; this is who we have always been.