The Faith of the Peach Farmer
By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith/ Community Columnist
The harvest of peaches this year has been abundant. Chilton County residents factor in “Peach Season” as part of their yearly holidays to celebrate. With statewide hype and advertisement, local peach attractions, peach farms open to tourists, the Peach Run race, peach art show, peach beauty pageants, the Peach Parade and Peach JamJ ubilee, it comes natural to locals to put wooden peaches on their front door that say “welcome.” Whereas, the peach festivities are a fun way to celebrate the climax of the season, peach farming is not a carefree lifestyle.
Peach farmers and workers have a year-long battle of work with much prayer and hope that their livelihood will not be put at stake — a reoccurring gamble and act of faith each year. When most Chilton residents move on to celebrate fall, winter or spring holidays — the peach farmer and workers are outside, planting new trees, pruning, spraying, building fires amid their orchards to keep the trees warm on freezing nights. Amid the yearlong process of work under the Southern sun and humidity, the farmer delves into his own pocket to pay in advance for the crop he hopes he will have. Costs for new trees, paying employees and purchasing materials, such as fertilizers and spray are some of the actions of faith that must be made in order for a successful peach harvest.
The Christian faith frequently makes reference to “the faith of a mustard seed” which comes from the scripture of Matthew 17:20, “if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” However, respectfully, although small, a mustard seed is visible and present, whereas the outcome of each year’s peach harvest is not. Yet the farmer still rises early daily, works in freezing temps, the blazing sun and has faith that the peaches will come.
The Peach Festival is the ultimate celebration of a year-long journey for farmers. It is their thanksgiving. It can be described by most as good music, collectible T-shirts, spending time with friends and a funnel cake but it represents something more emblematic of Chilton County since its birth — faith.
The week, as the peach festival comes to a climatic close with the Peach Parade presenting in downtown Clanton on Saturday morning beginning at 9 a.m. and the Peach Jam Jubilee on Saturday afternoon at Clanton City Park with live entertainment beginning around 4 p.m. (Gates open at 3 p.m.), take time to remember the faith and dedication of our peach farmers. They give purpose, jobs and bring millions of dollars to this county with their faith — that is something to celebrate.