Cheek's peaches are a summer staple
When you're looking for something to do off the lake, and you have a craving for something sweet and summery, check out Cheek's Peach Orchard in Canon.
Cheek’s Peach Orchard has been a staple in Hart County for almost 70 years. There’s no shortage of folks around the area who will tell you it’s the best place to go to get the local delicious fruit that Georgia is so well known for.
Began by Grady Cheek in 1950, orchard operations are carried out today by his son and daughter-in-law, Wayne and Alice Cheek.
Alice Cheek talked with Lake Living to explain how the high commodity fruit keeps her and her family on their toes come harvest time every summer.
She explained that much of the peach craze at the farm each year boils down to the luck of the draw.
On days when peaches are ripe and ready, picking begins at 7 a.m. As many peaches as possible are harvested by 9 a.m., then taken to the stand for selling. Everything picked is sold the same day.
“I tell people when we think we’re going to pick,” Cheek said. “We don’t have them every day. We have them according to how they ripen. But I can tell you when I think we will have them, and that’s what I do tell people. We open at 9 a.m. if we have peaches. We don’t ever know what time we’ll get through.”
A chalkboard remains on display at the stand where Cheek tries to list the days when more peaches might be available. It’s those days when she will be met with lines of people waiting to make their purchases.
“If you do find out the days, it is best to come as early as you can,” she added.
The peach stand is usually in full swing around the first week of June with the frenzy lasting up until the second week of August.
But don’t think there’s only one variety of peach to sink your teeth into.
“It’s hard to say, but we probably have nine to 12 different varieties,” Cheek said. “They come in about a week apart all summer long, so what you get this week will be gone the next week.”
Those delectable varieties include Ruby Prince, Dixie Red, Gala, Red Haven, Washington, Windblo, Red Globe, Loring, PF 24, Early August Prince, Georgia Belle and Redskins.
“The first three or four varieties are what they call a clingstone,” said Cheek. “Clingstone is actually where the meat of the peach clings to that stone. It’s more of a pickling type of peach. You’ve got to work around the kernel of that peach. That’s what we have mostly in June.”
Toward the end of June is when freestone peaches start appearing. As opposed to clingstone, freestone peach kernels can be squeezed out by hand.
Even though there are so many varieties, Cheek explained that most folks can’t tell much of a difference, except for maybe the white flesh of the Georgia Belle.
“As far as the yellow peaches, I wouldn’t fight you over the difference,” laughed Cheek. “It’s whatever you can get your hands on.”
As with any kind of farming, much depends on the weather. Freezing temperatures from the previous winter attributed to last year’s harvest yielding only about 40 percent of a full crop.
“It turned out to not be an exceptional year. but an OK year,” Cheek said. “A very good year is when nothing gets frozen.”
Regardless of Mother Nature, up to about 50 percent of peaches must be knocked off the trees so the remaining fruit has ample room to grow.
As for this year’s peaches, with about 1,300 trees occupying approximately 13 acres, Cheek said things are shaping up to be more favorable.
“All in all, it should be a fairly good year,” she said.
Cheek’s Peach Orchard is located at 200 Orchard Road in Canon. To find out when picking is likely, call 706-245-8810.