More About the NC Peach Growers Society!

Peach School and Annual Meeting, NC Mutual Peach Growers Society, Inc. Carolina Hotel, Pinehurst, NC

Peach School and Annual Meeting, NC Mutual Peach Growers Society, Inc.
Carolina Hotel, Pinehurst, NC. January 31, 1952.

Incorporated in March 1963, the North Carolina Peach Growers’ Society was founded by some of the most prominent peach growers in the Sandhills region of North Carolina. T. Clyde Auman, D.P. Gallimore and Earl Richard Parsons, Jr. were among those growers who signed on to an organization with the mission of promoting the improved production and wider consumption of peaches. Based in Candor, the self-described “Peach Town” of North Carolina, the Society drew its membership from the numerous growers that populated the area.

Whereas the By-laws and Articles of Incorporation of the NC Peach Growers Society date from 1963, the group existed as the NC Mutual Peach Growers Society, Inc. prior to that date. Katherine Ball Ripley’s fascinating memoir, Sand in My Shoes, relays the exhilarating rise and desperate decline of peach fortunes in the Sandhills in the early part of the 20th century.

At that time the Sandhills was the heart of peach production in the Southeast. Workers at pack houses labored at full capacity during the harvest season, packing thousands of bushels with fruit. Hundreds of boxcars left Candor every day during peach season, heading up to Northern markets.

In her book, Katherine recounts how the success of the early growers, many of whom came from up North, ultimately lead to a peach boom – increases in acreages of orchards in the Sandhills as well as in Georgia and South Carolina – which resulted in an overproduction of fruit.

New varieties and expanded acreages of orchards in Georgia and South Carolina also led to overlapping harvest times with those of North Carolina growers, which undercut the lock the Sandhills growers had on Northern markets. These developments ultimately destroyed the fortunes of many established peach growers. A number of them gave up their orchards and returned home.

By the end of the 1920’s, most of the Northern growers had left the Sandhills. Local farmers took over many of the orchards, and have developed a successful peach industry in the Sandhills ever since. Photos document the growers’ meetings held at the Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst from the early 1950’s and show a hundred or so prosperous looking men in suits, who were the pillars of the industry at that time.


Peach Packing House, circa late 1940s to 1950

Peach Packing House, circa late 1940s to 1950

The Peach Industry Today

There are no longer any large scale packing facilities in North Carolina; the last one closed a decade ago. However, the population in North Carolina has grown substantially over the past two decades and growers have capitalized on those changes by developing strong local markets with produce stands and local and regional farmers markets.

A peach destined for distant markets must be picked early, to be firm enough to withstand the rigors of a pack line and transportation. The benefit to local markets is the peach can stay on the tree longer, softening and gaining full flavor and sweetness. Long time customers recognize the benefit to purchasing locally grown peaches, and have their favorite orchards and markets to which they return year after year, as part of a family tradition.

In recent decades, peach orchards have spread beyond the Sandhills to other parts of the state. Improved varieties and rootstocks have encouraged growers from the mountains to the coast to add peach orchards to their operations. The potential for continued market growth is strong: the population of North Carolina is projected to grow by almost 3 million people over the next 2 decades, with most of that growth in the urban centers. That’s 3 million more happy consumers eager for the return of fresh NC peaches year after year. It’s time to get growing.

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