Why Is Georgia Known As the Peach State?
The “Peach State” has around 70 roads in the state named after peaches. In Atlanta, Peachtree Street is one of the city’s major routes. Many remain puzzled by why Georgia has this nickname, and rightly so. These days, the state’s most valuable fruit crop is the blueberry, much of the land is dedicated to peanut farming, and California produces the highest number of peaches in the US. So what’s the story behind Georgia and this beloved stone fruit?
The peach first made its way to the US in the 1500s from China’s Silk Road via Europe. It is recorded that “Franciscan monks introduced peaches to St. Simons and Cumberland islands along Georgia’s coast in 1571.” Once planted, the fruit flourished in Georgian soil and produced a delectably sweet strain. However, the fruit really got a name for itself during the civil war when soldiers from different states would pick peaches from the trees surrounding battlefields and were impressed by its deep flavor. The Georgian peach became renowned for its superior taste, appearance, and all-around quality.
The Peach & the “New South”
Another consequence of the civil war was the need to create an image for “The New South”. Cotton plantations and their links to slavery had terrible connotations and didn’t fit with the idea of Southern society cutting ties with slavery. These politics combined with the boll weevils that attacked many cotton plantations drove the success of the peach production industry. However, like much of Southern history, there are two halves to this story. Many enslaved people were employed to work on peach plantations for next-to-no pay and their salaries could not even cover one of the peaches they were instructed to pick all day.
Fruit cultivation was seen as refined due to its complex process and the need for reading material in order to grow a successful crop, which of course required literacy. The peach itself was seen as exotic and glamorous in a society fascinated by Asian products and culture.
Where to Take a Bite of Georgian Peaches Today
Jumping forward a century, in 1995 the peach was designated the official state fruit and there are plenty of events that commemorate this fruit in our beautiful state. Firstly there is the annual Georgia Peach Festival. This week-long event attracts up to 10,000 visitors and takes place in Byron and Fort Valley. What started as a commemoration to the peach producers of the state is now a celebration of the fruit itself.
The festival was in fact stopped in 1926 when it became too successful! The small towns of Peach County couldn’t cope with the large numbers of visitors that descended upon them every year to witness elaborate dances, songs, barbecues, and pageants. In 1986, Fort Valley decided to revive the festivities and change the dates from blooming season to harvest season, which allows for the production of the main event — the world’s largest peach cobbler! This baked good is free to taste and measures 11 by 5 feet, with a depth of approximately eight inches.
Visit a Peach Orchard
Now we’ve got your taste buds tingling you’re probably dying to taste one of Georgia’s perfect peaches. There are plenty of orchards to visit all over the state, and fruit picking is the ideal summer activity. We recommend Southern Belle Farm, just 38 minutes from Atlanta. Head on out in the summer months, pick up a punnet, and try a peach straight from the tree! The sweet juice is the perfect thirst quencher for a summer’s day. This convenient location is easily accessible from the city and with our transportation services, you won’t even need to worry about directions or parking. Tell us what you want to do and we will recommend the perfect itinerary.
Despite a tumultuous history, the peach has become a symbol for Georgia. Now you know more about it, why not make a trip to our sunny state and see what all the fuss is about?