Tennessee Orchards Offer Homegrown Peaches and Summer Fun

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Photo credit: Steve Jones

Nothing welcomes the summer quite like the taste of fresh, local peaches. The fuzzy fruit may be more widely grown in warmer states like Georgia and South Carolina, but if you’re wanting to take them straight from tree to table, you can still find tasty Tennessee peaches at a handful of farms across the state. Here are our picks for some orchards that are, well, far from the pits.

Jonesing for Jones Orchard

After 80 years in the peach business, the Jones family in Millington knows a thing or two about growing them. The family legacy began in 1940, when H.L. “Peaches” Jones established Jones Orchard and sold peaches door to door in the Millington area. “Peaches” Jones passed the farm down to his son, Lee, and Lee’s wife, Juanita. Their son, Henry, returned to the farm full time after graduating from the University of Tennessee in 2005. Henry runs the operation today, although Juanita continues managing the Country Kitchen, where they sell fresh jams, jellies, relishes and baked goods.

The family farm now encompasses over 600 acres, and while the Joneses have diversified their offerings to include several other types of fruit, they still maintain more than 100 acres of peach trees in production each year.

Tennessee peach orchards

Photo credit: Steve Jones

“A peach tree typically stays in production for 15 years, but we plant new trees every year,” Henry Jones says. “We purchase trees from fruit tree nurseries in McMinnville and plant each one by hand during the winter. By their fourth summer, the trees should yield a full crop.”

The hard work of yearly planting, pruning and thinning the fruit is all worth it come summer, when the orchard welcomes visitors eager to fill their own baskets with sweet, handpicked peaches selected from the orchard’s 20-plus varieties.

“We have some commercial varieties, but we still grow some of the old varieties like Belle of Georgia, Elberta, Redskin and Indian Cling,” Henry says. “And we really enjoy visiting with customers who come back year after year for their favorite.”

See more: 5 Tips for Selecting, Picking and Cooking With Fresh Peaches

Photo credit: Steve Jones

Thanks to their high sugar content, the heirloom varieties tend to have a much better flavor than the peaches sold at supermarkets. But regardless of the variety, Henry recommends choosing peaches from higher in the tree.

“The more sunlight the fruit receives, the higher quality and more flavorful it will be,” Henry says.

While visitors love the quality and flavor they get from the peaches at Jones Orchard, it’s the family tradition they’ve made out of the peach-picking experience that keeps them coming back each summer, returning home with a haul of farm-fresh peaches to use in their favorite seasonal recipes.

“We recently talked with a customer who said that peach shortcake beats strawberry shortcake any day of the week,” Henry says. “Many customers particularly enjoy white peaches in both shortcake and peach ice cream. Peach cider and peach milkshakes are a hit as well.”

Tennessee peach orchards

Photo credit: Steve Jones

Fun at Forgie’s Fruit Farm

When Bill and Vicki Forgie decided to start a farm in Lewisburg in 1994, peaches weren’t the first idea they had in mind. In fact, they had plans to raise cattle until Vicki’s father suggested a different kind of business.

“My father-in-law said ‘Do something no one else is doing around here. Get into fruit trees,’” Bill Forgie says. “So we got ahold of the University of Tennessee, and they guided us the whole way, from how to set up the orchard to who to contact for fertilizing schedules.”

Today, the peach orchard at Forgie’s Fruit Farm spans 15 acres and produces seven different varieties of peaches. The Forgies continue to plant new trees every spring, but the main event on the farm takes place for about four weeks in the summer when visitors come from near and far to pick their own peaches fresh off the trees.

Tennessee peach orchards

Photo credit: Forgie’s Fruit Farm

“We have several families who come from Texas, Florida, Wisconsin … and they make our place their summer vacation,” Vicki says.

The Forgies also run an on-site kitchen where they sell homemade peach cobbler and cheesecake, jam, salsa, and eight flavors of hand-dipped ice cream. They offer light lunch options as well, encouraging visitors to make a day of it and take their time enjoying the farm.

“Our visitors just have a blast out there picking their own peaches and filling their baskets,” Bill says.

See more: 10 Peach Recipes for Summer

During harvest season, they even have a driver who takes customers out to the trees and gives them tips on how to find the best peaches. For the best flavor, Bill recommends looking for peaches with a fully developed color.

“The main thing is that you don’t want any green on your peach. You want to make sure it’s a good, bright color,” Bill says.

In the kitchen, the uses for the Forgies’ peaches are as varied as the different types they grow.

“All of our varieties except our Sugar Giant, which is a white peach, are good for fresh eating, canning and freezing,” Bill says.

Photo credit: Steve Jones

Since white peaches have a low acidity level, they aren’t a good choice for canning, but their sweet flavor makes them perfect for eating fresh, freezing or adding to desserts. The Flaming Fury peaches, which can weigh up to a pound or more, are a great option for cooking. Vicki also likes to chop up any bruised peaches to use in homemade pancake batter and fresh peach syrup.

But no matter how their customers prefer to enjoy their peaches, the Forgies’ main goal is providing a memorable experience for visitors.

“It almost becomes like family – the people who come out year after year are excited and looking forward to it, and we’re looking forward to seeing them,” Bill says. “If you can, make this your destination so you can enjoy your time here.”

If You Go

Jones Orchard

Location: 7170 Hwy. 51 N. in Millington

U-Pick Location: 6824 Big Creek Church Rd. in Millington

Peach-Picking Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, June through September (Call ahead or visit the website for availability.)

Market & Country Kitchen Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Phone: (901) 873-3150

Website: jonesorchard.com

Forgie’s Fruit Farm

Location: 2000 Collier Rd. in Lewisburg

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday in July (Call ahead for availability or sign up for the mailing list on the website to receive email updates.)

Phone: (931) 359-0153

Website: forgiesfruitfarm.com


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