RUSTON, LA (WVUE) - It's not the biggest farm crop in Louisiana, but some would argue it's one of the sweetest. This is the time of year that peaches are being picked in orchards near the north Louisiana city of Ruston
The gentle hills of north central Louisiana are the center of peach country.
"At one time in Lincoln Parish alone there was over a thousand acres of peach trees back in the 70s and 80s. But due to weather factors, the next generation not wanting to farm and things like that, then today there is less than 100 acres," said peach farmer Joe Mitcham, Jr.
Mitcham is a second-generation peach farmer. His orchard is near Ruston.
"The hilly terrain in this area is really good. Peach trees don't like wet feet so the soil drains really well in this area," Mitcham said.
And high levels of iron ore in the soil also help.
I've always said that that's one of the things that gives the flavor to the peaches here," Mitcham said. "That's what were known for is the good tasting peaches."
In Louisiana, peach farming isn't as big as it used to be that's why on this farm they try to sell directly to the consumer.
Mitcham's fresh peaches are turned into preserves and other products that he sells in his farm store.
"The preserves you know, good on toast, pancakes or ice cream even. And we have peach syrup that's peach flavored that's made with the juice from the peaches. We have a salsa that's really popular, it's half peach and half tomato. It's kind of a sweet type salsa and a spicy. And then the peach jelly," Mitcham said.
And there's nothing quite like home-made ice cream, made from fresh peaches.
There are several varieties of peaches grown on Mitcham's farm. They mature at different times during the summer months. And that's keeps fresh baskets of peaches on the loading dock all summer long. It's a farm fresh treat that can take the edge off a hot summer day.
If you love peaches, you should head to Ruston this weekend for the annual Louisiana peach fest. They have a peach eating contest, cooking contests, a peach parade and other fun events.
For more information on the Louisiana Peach Festival: HTTP://WWW.LOUISIANAPEACHFESTIVAL.ORG/INDEX.HTML
Mitcham Farms: HTTP://WWW.MITCHAMFARMS.COM/