Sherry Davis | Davis Produce Stand
Boiled Peanuts | Website
The Davis Produce Stand has been in the family for three generations. Sherry Davis continues the legacy offering travelers, tourists, commuters and locals one of Georgia’s favorite treats: boiled peanuts.
Peanuts are cooked for four to five hours then soaked in salt water for about one hour. How can you tell if they’re ready to eat?
“When they’ve sunk, that’s when they’re done,” Sherry says.
Tip: The best boiled peanuts are those made from raw or “green” peanuts, harvested June through September.
Ambos Seafood | Drew Ambos
Shrimp | Website
Many companies boast that they’ve been in business for two, three, four decades, and while those milestones are admirable, and certainly worth touting, the Ambos family is starting to count into the centuries! Their name has been associated with fresh, quality seafood for 150 years, starting with Henry Ambos sometime in the mid-1800s.
Today, Drew Ambos and brother, Hal are the fifth generation to carry on the family legacy as seafood dealers. Their sales include domestic, wild-caught shrimp, a variety of fish, crab and oysters.
Seafood? Georgia? Aren’t they known for peaches and peanuts? Might be time to expand the horizons!
“Shrimp is Georgia’s most valuable seafood crop, with an estimated value of 10 million dollars,” says Drew.
Trivia: What happens to the jellyfish that often get caught up in the Ambos fishing nets? They’re dried, preserved and shipped to the Far East for consumption.
Ronnie Mathis | Mountain Earth Farms
You could say digging in the dirt is in Ronnie Mathis’ DNA. The son of a farmer, Ronnie knew he wanted to carry on the family legacy from the tender age of five—though, he probably didn’t know the word “legacy” at the time! Growing up on a 175-acre Georgia farm, typical dinner conversation between Ronnie, his parents and his seven brothers and sisters was always about farming practices and techniques. There was more than enough work to go around, so when five-year-old Ronnie asked to have his own garden, naturally, his father was reluctant, but he agreed to help his son start the vegetables, and stressed it would be Ronnie’s responsibility to keep the garden up—and he did. In fact, it thrived, except for that small incident when the cows got loose and ate all the corn.
Now, more than 30 years later, Ronnie is still a farmer, running his family farm, growing Vidalia onions among other vegetables, plus blueberries and blackberries, certified naturally grown. In fact, two decades ago, Ronnie ventured into organic farming, at a time when the practice was more difficult than today and long before it was trendy.
Several years ago, Ronnie and a fellow farmer, approached the local school board, administration and nutrition department about bringing healthy farm-fresh foods into the schools’ menus. Ronnie supplied produce from his farm in a test program, and it was a success. The pilot program grew to become Northeast Georgia Farm to School. Ronnie has served about 12,000 or more students with his farm’s smoothies, vegetables and fruits.
A Work of Art: The Vidalia onion is not only sweet and tasty, it’s famous, so famous it has its own museum in…you guessed it: Vidalia, Georgia!
Anson Mills | Glenn Roberts
Grits | Website
Before Anson Mills founder, California native, Glenn Roberts made his mark in the world of heirloom organic grains, he worked as a busboy at his mother’s restaurant (when he was a mere youngster), played French with the San Diego Youth Symphony and later fourth chair in the San Diego Symphony.
He attended the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, a freshman, at 17 on music and science scholarships, and after graduation joined the Air Force. Still seeking adventure once his military stint was over, he sailed the world on private yachts as a navigator and mate. This was the endeavor that led to his real passion—a love of indigenous tropical foods and agriculture. Returning home, he studied architectural history and the history of food.
In 1998, he left a lucrative corporate career, rented a large metal warehouse, bought four native granite stone mills and opened Anson Mills.
Two years later, he had a good harvest 10 varieties of heirloom Southern Dent corns from which he milled grits for chefs in the Carolinas and Georgia, and as word spread, to discerning chefs around the country.
Cool Fact: Glenn’s crops are all “field ripened.” He explains the term on his website:
“We allow our crops to ripen in the field, further promoting their viability, and store them cold and fresh from the field as “new” crops to extend that viability—another practice applied since antiquity, climate permitting. Field-ripening also enhances the flavor of the grains.”
Lane Packing, LLC | Mark Sanchez
Pecans | Website
Lane Southern Orchards has been in business, growing peaches and pecans since 1908. The company grows 2,500 acres of peaches and 2,800 acres of pecans on farms throughout middle Georgia. They ship around 2 million pecans around the world yearly.
Lane also operates one of the largest agritourism attractions in Georgia, drawing over 275,000 visitors yearly to see the farm and peach packing facilities and enjoy such other attractions as you pick strawberries, a corn maze, pumpkin patch and many special events throughout the year.
In 2015, Lane Southern Orchards won a national award in the “Small Business Revolution” campaign that honors 100 of the country’s most compelling small businesses.
In 2006, Mark Sanchez joined the staff as CEO to aid with the farm’s expansion. Today, not only is Lane a working farm, but it also includes a large roadside market, a café, bakery, a pavilion and play area that may be rented out for parties, and the company has branched out into commercial sales.
Mark brings with him over 20 years of experience farming in Florida, growing citrus with some of the largest growers in the country, the last 12 years of which, as the General Manager and Executive Vice-President of Sun Ag, Inc. at Fellsmere Farms, in the Vero Beach area.
Born in Vero Beach, Florida, Mark holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Major: Fruit Crops) from the University of Florida in 1980 and a J.D. from Stetson University College of Law in 1985. He has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1985. He is married to Carolyn Hoequist Sanchez for 32 years, and they have two daughters, both alumni of the University of Florida.
Fun Fact: How do you get the pecans off the tree?
Shake! Shake! Shake! A worker attaches a machine to a limb and, literally, shakes the tree so the nuts loosen and come raining down!
Pearson Farm | Al Pearson
Peaches | Website
The Pearson Farm has been in the family since 1885 when Moses Winlock “Lockie” Pearson and his wife, Cornelia Emory “Emma,” moved to the Fort Valley, Georgia area and planted the first peach trees. With each generation, the family acquired more land and grew more peaches.
Al Pearson is the fourth generation owner. At a young age, Al learned to navigate the farm. His father told him, “Son, if you’re ever going to make any money, you’re going to make it off of a tree.” The pruning of peaches and the shaking of pecan trees quickly became not only a job but a passion.
Though Al went away to the University of Georgia, after graduation, he returned to his roots and farmed the land. Like Al, his son, Lawton, a law school graduate came home to continue the family legacy, a fifth generation peach farmer. Today the family’s peach orchard stretches across 1,500 acres. That’s a lot of peaches!
They pay very close attention to details to insure the consistent, repeatable, recognizable quality of their fruit and nuts. Al enjoys sharing what they do with others because they deliver something immensely personal….something that their customers eat and feed their family and friends.
Aside from shipping their fresh peaches all over the country, Pearson Farm is also famous for their homemade peach ice cream.
Ice Cream Tip: Mary, Al’s wife is at the churn, whipping up the tasty, frosty delight! So what makes Pearson Peach Ice Cream special, aside from lots and lots of the extraordinarily sweet, fresh-picked Pearson peaches?
“…when you have a soft ice cream it doesn’t kill the peach oil because you don’t have to freeze it as hard. Frozen ice cream you lose it and you have to add artificial peach flavoring,” Mary says.