Who: Lane Southern Orchards
What: Georgia Peaches
Where: Fort Valley, GA
For 107 years, the Lane family has been planting, growing, harvesting, packing, and shipping fresh Georgia peaches all over the country, giving people miles from the nearest peach tree access to one of the South’s favorite fruits.
From the Start
Founded in 1908 as Diamond Fruit Farm by John David Duke, it took on the Lane name when Duke’s son-in-law David O. Lane took over after Duke’s death. Since then, Lane family members have nurtured their company, Lane Southern Orchards (Lane Packing, LLC), and it has thrived over the last century.
While it merged with a Florida citrus growing company in 2006, the Lanes are still heavily involved in the day-to-day operations; Duke Lane Jr. is currently president, and his son, the fifth generation of the company’s founding family, is working at Lane too.
The Family Business
It’s always been a family affair, but the Lane “family” has expanded to include many longtime employees, like Adela Mauricio, who’s been at Lane for 32 years. “I started as token thrower, then moved up to picking, then I ran my own picking crew with about 40 others under my supervision,” she said. “I’ve pretty much done it all here.” She later worked in the café at Lane’s retail store, managed the retail market, and then, when the café evolved into the larger restaurant it is now, she ran it. “I now work in customer service for our mail-order business,” she said.
Adela has loved every part she’s played in Lane’s history, but admitted she sometimes misses the old days. “It was neat when we were just a roadside stand, and I enjoyed running the restaurant. I got to meet so many people and see how happy our peaches – and peach ice cream – made them. Some folks who’ve come here for years still look for me at the restaurant, and that’s nice.”
Today, Lane continues to farm and sell peaches, both direct to the consumer in its retail location in Fort Valley, and by mail order and in grocery stores, ranging from mom-and-pop places to large national chains. Its plethora of peach products are available in its store, and can be ordered from its website. Lane’s business model also includes pecan farming (more than 1,000 acres), and even a small strawberry patch.
Coming up this week: A closer look at how peaches are picked and packed for transport, plus tips on picking out (and peeling!) the perfect peach.