White peach wins Peach Auction

Published 3:34 pm Monday, June 26, 2017

The 2017 Peach Auction was moved indoors for only the second time in its history due to rain.

However, the threat of wet weather could not dampen the spirits of all those who attended the event inside Senior Connection on Saturday.

The winning basket was grown by Jerry Harrison and purchased by ALFA Farmers Federation for $3,400.

The winning variety was a Carolina Belle, which is a white peach.

“It is something that I have grown for years,” Harrison said. “The white peaches have always been my favorite. A lot of folks don’t even know that there is such a thing as a white peach.”

According to Harrison, the white fruit has higher sugar content than the yellow variety, which gives them a sweeter taste.

“I’m just a one-man operation and have been doing it for years,” Harrison said. “I take pride in what I do, and I just happened to win again.”

Harrison has been entering peaches in the auction since 1971 and this year marked the 21st time that he claimed the top spot.

The rest of the top five peaches included second place Mountain View Orchards purchased by Peoples Southern Bank for $1,800, third place M&M Farms purchased by Kubota for $1,800, fourth place Burnette Farms purchased by Marion Bank & Trust for $1,600 and fifth place to Henry and Suzanne Williams purchased by Pioneer Material for $1,600.

As is the case each year, the auction served as the grand finale of the weeklong Chilton County Peach Festival.

The peach farmers throughout the county were thanked and shown appreciation throughout the ceremony by nearly everyone who grabbed the microphone.

This year’s farmers and their peach crops endured several obstacles along the way, including a lengthy drought, lack of chill hours and a late freeze.

“I’m just about out of peaches right now,” Harrison said. “I closed my peach stand yesterday. It’s just one of those things that we have to face and you can’t do much about.”

Despite the obvious hardships, 25 baskets of peaches graced the stage. That total was just a couple shy of the average number for the event, as two new growers were also represented in this year’s competition.

Several state and local dignitaries were on hand for the auction, such as Congressman Mo Brooks, State Senator Cam Ward and State Representative Jimmy Martin.

“It is always a pleasure to be down here [in Chilton County],” Brooks said. “Now I know a little bit more first hand about Chilton County’s reputation for producing some of the world’s finest peaches.”

The auction raised $25,400, which will go toward the Clanton Lions Club and the charitable initiatives that they take part in throughout the year.

“We give to 20-plus charities through the course of the year and without the contribution of the auction we would not be able to do it,” Clanton Lions Club president Jason Griffin said.

Glenn McGriff has been helping lead the operation of the Peach Auction for the past 40 years.

According to McGriff, the No. 1 goal of the Clanton Lions Club is to promote the Peach Festival and the peach farmers.

“If you don’t have the peach grower, then you don’t have this festival,” McGriff said. “They have so much that they have to defend against. They are just good hard working people.”