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Size a big factor in prize-winning peaches

Size does matter when you’re trying to grow a blue ribbon basket of peaches, says Mark Knight of M&M Farms, the grower of Saturday’s first place basket at the annual Peach Auction.

Knight’s basket of the Bounty variety sold to the Chilton County Farmers Federation for $1,850.

“Most people want size. It doesn’t matter what it tastes like,” says Knight, whose basket has placed first for two consecutive years.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that those top-dollar baskets are easy to come by. The work never stops, even on auction day, as Knight’s wife, Melissa, went to market Saturday so he could attend the auction.

After the auction, Knight was kind enough to share a few tips on what it takes to grow the perfect Chilton County peach:

“First of all, the peach variety has got to be one that will come off during the Peach Festival,” Knight explains.

The Bounty peaches, for example, were not the ones Knight had originally intended to enter, but they were harvested early due to the heat. At first, he had planned to enter the Paul Friday Lucky 13 variety — but those came off the tree early as well.

Another “secret” is drip irrigation, which is a big benefit in dry weather.

“Other than that, just pray a lot,” Knight says.

Then, after the peaches are harvested, the growers pick the best of the bunch to go in the basket. Aside from size, other important factors are color, basket arrangement and the absence of blemishes.

Perhaps the results of Saturday’s auction would have been different, Knight supposed, if more growers had participated.

“I want more of our farmers to be involved. I’d like more of them to get recognition,” he said.

Jimmy Parnell made the winning bid on behalf of the Chilton County Farmers Federation.

“We’re just proud to support the peach farmers of Chilton County,” Parnell said.

Rounding out the top five baskets were:

Second place: Knight Farms, bought by SunSouth John Deere for $1,700

Third place: Jerry Harrison, bought by Sponsors for Tim James for Governor for $1,700

Fourth place: Jimmy Harrison & Sons, bought by Peoples Southern Bank for $1,000

Fifth place: Jimmy Durbin, bought by Congressman Spencer Bachus for $800

The remainder of winning baskets, in order of bidding, is as follows:

6. Ken Patterson Farms, bought by The Clanton Advertiser for $550

7. Billy Patterson, bought by Sen. Richard Shelby and Anna Shelby for $550

8. Billy Patterson, bought by Chilton County Home Builders Association for $500

9. Henry and Suzanne Williams, bought by Stone & Sons Electric for $500

10. Henry and Suzanne Williams, bought by Congressman Spencer Bachus for $400

11. Henry and Suzanne Williams, bought by Rep. Cam Ward for $300

12. Henry and Suzanne Williams, bought by Martin Funeral Home for $300

13. Bentley Farms, bought by Norman Grace for the Commissioner of Agriculture for $300

14. Kenneth and Kenyon Easterling, bought by Chilton County Sheriff Kevin Davis for $400

15. Kenneth and Kenyon Easterling, bought by Wadsworth Oil for $350

16. Josh Smitherman, bought by Chilton County Commissioner Allen Caton for $300

17. Josh Smitherman, bought by Peoples Southern Bank for $300

18. Sunshine Farms, bought by Rep. Jimmy Martin for $300

19. M&M Farms, bought by Peoples Southern Bank for $350

20. Jimmy Harrison & Sons, bought by Sen. Hank Erwin for $250

21. Chilton Research and Extension Center, bought by Clanton Tractor for $350

22. Chilton Research and Extension Center, bought by Ben Atkinson Motors of Tallassee for $250

23. Chilton Research and Extension Center, bought by Bradley Byrne for $200

24. Chilton Research and Extension Center, bought by Pet Haven Veterinary Services for $200

25. Jerry Harrison, bought by SunSouth John Deere for $250

26. Marvin and Peggy Green, bought by District Judge Rhonda Hardesty and Ray Hardesty for $300

27. Marvin and Peggy Green, bought by Rex Cleckler in memory of his father, Wayne Cleckler, for $250

28. Culp Farms, bought by Clanton Tractor for $300

Approximately $15,000 was raised during the auction Saturday. The money will go toward the Clanton Lions Club for various charities throughout the year, such as Alabama Lions Sight Conservation Association. There is typically a strong focus on charities that benefit children.