By Mary Catherine Gaston
...ALL of Georgia screams for peach ice cream! We asked our Facebook friends which rural Georgia farm markets make the best use of the sweet, juicy goodness Georgia's famous for, and you answered!* Our team took on the task of trying out all your recommendations. Ten delicious sugar rushes later, we can confirm that this time of year, the Peach State should definitely be called the Peach Ice Cream State! Read on to find out where to get your fix.
Burton Brooks Orchards Barney, GA
When you pull into the sandy drive and park under the shade of the tall oak trees at Burton Brooks Orchards in the heart of Barney, Georgia, you will feel as if you’ve taken a trip back in time. In a way, you have traveled back to the 1950s, when the first peach trees were planted in Brooks County by I.C. Williams, the original owner of the packing shed and produce stand that still stand on this location and provide part of the draw to this corner of highways 76 and 122. While some folks do come for the Georgia Grown produce in season, many others make their way here for the ice cream. Owners Mike and Lynn Abbott literally churn out about 100 gallons of ice cream seven days a week all summer long. Though they also serve strawberry, blueberry and butter pecan, their peach ice cream is a favorite among patrons who drive from near and far for the refreshingly creamy treat. Churned with chunks of sweet, tangy peaches Burton Brooks’ peach ice cream is a truly unique taste of south Georgia. Find out more or plan your trip by visiting Burton Brooks Peach Orchards on Facebook.
Calhoun Produce Ashburn, GA
There is no denying you’ve arrived at Calhoun Produce when you catch sight of the giant strawberry in the back of a vintage pickup in front of the farm market. As Sheila Rice, second-generation co-owner admits, most folks don’t “happen” by the market, which is definitely off the beaten path in spite of its proximity to Ashburn and Tifton. Remote as the location is, crowds are not deterred from visiting the market, which sells fresh Georgia Grown produce, sweet treats, canned products like jams and jellies, a variety of gift items and made-to-order lunch. While u-pick strawberries are a main attraction in spring, drawing thousands of school children to the farm annually, the Calhoun family work hard to ensure there is something fun for visitors to do just about year-round (March through Christmas Eve, to be exact). Their soft-serve peach ice cream made using Dickey Farms and Lane Southern Orchard peaches is the top seller in summer, and folks don’t have to drive to Ashburn to get it; the Calhoun family sell it at their stand in the Cordele Farmers’ Market in June and July as well. Three other ice cream flavors round out their menu—strawberry, butter pecan and, in the fall, Georgia peanut butter. Learn more about Calhoun Produce on their Facebook page.
Dickey Farms Musella, GA
What started out as a simple peach packing shed on the railroad tracks in bustling downtown Musella at the turn of the twentieth century has seen its fair share of changes in the century since it began operation. Musella itself has changed quite a bit, but the two-lane road in front of Dickey Farms’ store—once U.S. Highway 341—buzzes with activity just as it did before the highway bypassed it years ago. That activity is driven almost entirely by the retail arm of Dickey Farms. Now owned and operated by the fourth and fifth generations of the Dickey family, the stand’s wide, wood plank floors, ceiling fans and rocking chairs beckon hungry travelers from the modern four-lane to a refreshingly quiet, rural Georgia pace. The open-air market offers not only fresh, Georgia Grown produce, but also jams, jellies and a variety of gift items. While the Dickey family offer u-pick strawberries in season and a list of child-friendly activities (both fun and educational), the soft-serve peach ice cream steals the show. It’s a good thing they sell it seven days a week starting in strawberry season each spring and extending through August. Find out more or chart your trip to Dickey Farms on Facebook.
Jaemor Farm Market Alto, GA
Heading to the north Georgia mountains this summer? Plan a stop at Jaemor Farm Market in Alto if you can. The huge, open-air market has just about everything a person could need for a getaway, including soft-serve ice cream in three flavors—strawberry, Dole pineapple whip (the kind you thought you could only get at Disney World) and most summer travelers’ favorite, sweet Georgia peach. While the market has been on this spot since Cornelia Highway was four-laned in 1981, the peach ice cream arrived on the scene since 2004, and every five-gallon batch that market manager Judah Echols and his team make contains two whole gallons of pure Georgia peach. Echols and crew can serve up to 75 gallons of peach ice cream a day during the busy summer season. It’s something his great-grandfather would not have imagined when he opened the family’s first peach stand on the Old Cornelia Highway back in 1928. Today, under the leadership of the fourth and fifth generations of the Echols family, Jaemor is the largest peach and strawberry grower in north Georgia and provides 50 full-time jobs year-round and twice that in the high season. Find out about Jaemor’s annual u-pick events and corn maze by visiting Jaemor Farm Market on Facebook.
Lane Southern Orchards Fort Valley, GA
While every peach ice cream is unique, the same goes for every Georgia farm market. Located just outside the heart of downtown Fort Valley, Lane Southern Orchards is perhaps one of the largest farm markets you’ll come across. Just past the line of rocking chairs out front, the indoor market features a full-scale restaurant alongside a produce and gift shop that welcome and entertain about 400,000 guests annually. While the farm was established in 1908, the original roadside market did not open until 1990. Now the largest peach and pecan farm in the U.S., Lane Southern Orchards also boasts u-pick strawberries in spring as well as a corn maze each fall. Soft-serve peach ice cream is just one of many dessert offerings at the PeachTree café, but it is a favorite among Lane’s four ice cream flavors. To find out more about all there is to do, see and eat at Lane Southern Orchards, visit them on Facebook.
Lawson Peach Shed Morven, GA
If you’re in search of ice cold, peachy refreshment, then Lawson Peach Shed in Morven is the place to go. While their peach ice cream is fantastic, soft-serve ice cream is not the only peach treat the Lawsons are known for. Stop by at lunch time and have a delicious sandwich and hot fries in one of the many rocking chairs or tables on their open-air packing shed deck. Sip an icy peach lemonade or have the friendly staff make yours a float by layering it with—you guessed it—peach ice cream and whipped cream. The Lawson family has been in the peach packing and shipping business at this location since 1998 and every year, they welcome visitors from all over the U.S. to enjoy a little piece of heaven on Highway 133 between Moultrie and Valdosta. Like your peaches fresh from the tree? No problem. Pick Lawson peaches seven days a week in season in one of the Lawson family’s orchards. Learn more or plan your trip by visiting Lawson Peach Shed on Facebook.
Luck & Moody Peaches Barney, GA
In the late 1950s, James E. Moody was a pioneer peach grower—the third man ever to produce the delicious fruit in south Georgia. Convinced to do so by Brooks County’s first peach grower, I.C. Williams, Moody set up his packing operation in an old cotton gin near the railroad tracks in downtown Barney where he could get his precious cargo to the train cars with speed and relative ease. He built what is now Luck & Moody Peach Shed directly adjacent to those tracks in the early 1960s, and that is where his daughter, LouJean, and granddaughter, Stephanie, keep the family business alive and thriving today. While the mother-daughter team sell fresh produce, jams, jellies and more at the colorfully updated original structure, their ice cream is what keeps the parking lot full on long, hot summer days. Recipe-developer Stephanie has put together a tangy peach soft-serve concoction that is unforgettable, but her flavor-making genius does not stop there. Depending on when you stop by, she may have 10 or more flavors festively displayed on the menu board by the register. While peach is most popular and blueberry is a close second, the key lime pie ice cream deserves an honorable mention. Get a glimpse of the shed and plan your trip at the Luck & Moody Facebook page.
Red Barn Market Sparks and Adel, GA
With not just one but two produce markets, several farms and a produce packing shed all operating in Cook County, the Bloser family of Red Barn Market in Adel and Sparks—Brent, Ray, Austin and Jade—are no strangers to hard work. While their bright red barns at each location might be what catch your eye, your taste buds will be tempted by all the markets have to offer, including fresh, Georgia-grown produce, locally made jams and jellies and, of course, peach ice cream. Dotted with chunks of sweet Georgia peach, Ray’s special recipe is churned daily at their Adel location but sold at both barns. In addition to peach, she sells strawberry and butter pecan, all of which can be enjoyed in the shade at one of many picnic tables. Ice cream not your thing? Take home a steamy bag of the Blosers' deliciously salty boiled peanuts or pick your own strawberries or tomatoes in season. Fall means a corn maze at the Adel location, but kiddos will find plenty to do year-round, and the Bloser family welcomes school groups as well. Want to know more? Check out Red Barn Market on Facebook.
The Market at Rutland Farms Tifton, GA
What began as an assignment in one of Ryan Rutland’s college classes is now a thriving enterprise that brings his family’s business—farming—to life for countless school groups, locals and Interstate travelers every year. The Market at Rutland Farms’ humble beginnings began in a much smaller stand just down Union Road from the current location just outside Tifton. Though the new facility opened in 2011, the Rutland family has been farming the land around the market for over a century. Back then the Rutlands sharecropped tobacco and cotton; today they grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables for retail and wholesale customers, including local schools—one of the major buyers of Rutland Farms’ fresh strawberries. Two generations of Rutlands are now involved in the day-to-day operations, which include u-pick fruits in season, a pumpkin patch, petting zoo, playground and, for the first time this summer, Farm Camp. With all this to offer, their peach ice cream still stands out with its pretty peach color and pleasant balance of sweetness and peach flavor. If you find yourself tempted to stop by, plan your trip by checking out The Market at Rutland Farms on Facebook.
Southern Grace Farms Enigma, GA
It’s a safe bet the first thing you will notice when you near Southern Grace Farms market in Enigma is the playground. Filled with a variety of colorful, slightly surprising items—jet skis, tractor tires, century-old cabins and a giant caterpillar-like tube maze—the playground was manager Jennifer McMillan’s idea, but it’s become her dad’s baby. Every piece of it is recycled or repurposed, and like everything else around the market, every year it grows. The ninth generation of her family to farm in Berrien County, Jennifer has the same entrepreneurial spirit as her ancestors and is always looking for that next crop to cultivate or item to sell in the market’s expansive gift shop. In addition to u-pick strawberries, Southern Grace offers u-pick blueberries, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, plums and for the first time this year, grapes. Drawing from her training as a teacher, Jennifer educates and entertains 5,000-6,000 south Georgia school children through field trips each year, ending each group’s time at the farm market with strawberry picking and freshly made soft-serve ice cream. A summertime favorite among the market’s four ice cream flavors, peach is only served for a limited time each year. Find out what’s available when and exactly how to get there by visiting Southern Grace Farms on Facebook.
Love another farm's peach ice cream? Let us know! We'd love to hear from you on the Rural Center's Facebook page.
*Businesses featured in this blog post came from our Peach Ice Cream Facebook post published May 22, 2019, with comments posted through May 28, 2019.