Last call for actual Georgia peaches

Update: Although the last day of picking at Pearson Farm was Friday, John Short’s team will get one final shipment of peaches ths week. You can find them Tuesday (8/31) through Saturday (9/4) at Sweet Auburn Curb Market’s Green City Market; Tuesday afternoon at InTown Farmers Market; Thursday afternoon at East Atlanta Village Farmers Market; and Saturday morning at East Lake, Sandy Springs, and Roswell farmers markets. – dg, 8/30
It’s an irony of our city that, although we are surrounded by roads named Peachtree, very rarely do Atlantans set eyes on actual peach trees. Scoring a true Georgia peach is almost as difficult. Grocery stores shamelessly display South Carolina and – horror of horrors – California peaches, as if Georgia’s core identity weren’t on the line.

But thanks to the efforts of a couple of young men with ties to Georgia’s peachy heart, it’s no longer true that you can’t find a Georgia peach in Atlanta. At least, it will remain true for 48 more hours: Saturday is the last “official” day of Pearson Farm peach sales at area farmers markets.

Pearson is the real thing: a five-generation peach and pecan farm located in … well, it’s right across the border from Peach County, in Crawford County. But real-live Georgia peaches are grown there—30 varieties on about 1,300 acres—and shipped all over the world.

That was the arrangement, anyway, until last summer, when John Short—an Atlanta transplant and childhood friend of Will McGehee, one of those fifth-generation Pearsons—stopped by the East Lake Farmers Market only to discover that there were no peaches.

He marched up to Amy Williams, one of the market organizers, and complained.

“Amy said, ‘Well, why don’t you bring some up here and sell them?’ Three weeks later, I did.”

Short, an environmental consultant by day, got in touch with his old friend McGehee. Together they worked out a plan for transporting the peaches—tree-ripe and “fuzzy,” meaning they have not been waxed or refrigerated like most commercial peaches—up to Atlanta.

The peaches were an instant hit. Soon Short, McGehee and a few friends were selling Pearson peaches at farmers markets in East Atlanta Village, Roswell and Marietta.

This summer Pearson peaches have become mainstays at 13 area farmers markets and 15 restaurants, due to tireless coordination by Short. The peaches are trucked up from the farm three times a week.

And they truly are gorgeous. I’ve been buying them all summer from multiple markets, and they are uniformly big, blemish-free, and super sweet. At $5 for a bag of 7 peaches (about 4 pounds), they are reasonably priced for the consistently superior quality. (“Scratch and dents” are available at a reduced price.)

McGehee says that quality is a matter of pride. “This is the kind of peach I take home to my wife,” he says. “This is making sure that our neighbor gets the good ones.”

Sending peaches 100 miles north to Atlanta farmers markets has been a pleasure for the extended Pearson family, too, because of the contact with consumers. “It gives you a little bit of inflation, to hear that people are really enjoying what we’re doing,” McGehee says. His uncle, fourth-generation farmer Al Pearson, adds that it’s been a smart business move. “It’s been good exposure,” he says. “And it’s been real rewarding for the market managers to be excited about us being there.”

Although the Pearsons take care—for environmental as well as economic reasons—to use the least amount of synthetic fungicides and insecticides on their trees as possible, the peaches are not certified organic. So you won’t find them for sale in every market.

But if you love a good peach and can accept the Pearson family’s pledge to keep their product as natural as they can, you won’t want to miss one last chance to buy them for the season, at tomorrow’s markets.

And you’ll be helping McGehee reach his ultimate goal. “If you get everybody in Atlanta to eat a couple pounds of Pearson peaches, I won’t have to ship my peaches all over the world,” he says. “We’ll keep them right here in Georgia.”

Look for Pearson peaches this final Saturday at Decatur Farmers Market, East Lake Farmers Market, Marietta Square Farmers Market, Piedmont Park Green Market, Roswell Farmers Market, Sandy Springs Farmers Market, Snellville Farmers Market and Sweet Auburn Curb Market.

Photo: Capitalizing on Atlanta’s growing farmers market scene, John Short has rethought a local distribution network for Georgia’s own Pearson peaches.