Apr 7, 2007
Georgia’s Duke Lane Jr. Named Mr. Peach

Duke Lane Jr., a fourth-generation peach and pecan grower from Fort Valley, Ga., was named Mr. Peach for 2005 by the Georgia Peach Association.

The award was announced during the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah in January.

“Our farm is in an ideal area for peaches,” Lane said. “I remember the crop failure of 1955, when I was 7 years old, and we’ve only had one failure since then, in 1996.”

The family farm, located in three counties near Macon, contains 2,200 acres of pecans and 2,300 acres of peaches. It also grows five acres of u-pick or “we-pick” strawberries. Lane’s great-grandfather, John David Duke, started the farm, originally named Diamond Fruit Farm, in 1908. Today, the farm name and packing business is Lane Packing Co.

The farm grows, packs and ships fresh peaches from mid-May to mid-August, using more than 30 cling and freestone varieties. Sales are in the Eastern United States and Canada. Lane Packing has more than 300,000 peach trees and packs the equivalent of 1 million 25-pound corrugated boxes of peaches each year. Labels include Diamond, Duke’s Pride Southern Orchard and Mountain Top.

Lane Packing also has more than 30,000 pecan trees that produce 2 million pounds of in-shell pecans each year. They are harvested in November and December and sold in 1,000-pound corrugated bins or in mesh bags of from 5 to 50 pounds. Shelled nuts are offered as mammoth halves, pieces and chopped nuts packaged in pound-size cellophane bags, 42 per case.

The farm also has a farm market, the Just Peachy gift shop, the Peachtree Café restaurant, a mail order business offering gift baskets of many kinds and agritourism attractions including orchard and packinghouse tours. It also has a Web site, www.lanepacking.com, that describes the farm and reaches out to visitors, farm market customers and wholesale peach and pecan buyers.

The modern packinghouse was built in 1990, the year Duke Lane Sr. turned the business over to his four children: Duke Jr., Bobby, Anne and Steve, who continue to run the business.

Lane, who is chairman of the Farm Service Agency in Georgia, has a son, Duke Lane III, and a nephew, Phillip Rigdon, who are in the business and represent the fifth generation.

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