The packinghouse at Dickey Farms is the oldest continuously operating facility of its kind in Georgia. Built in 1936 from lumbers hewn on land owned by “Mr. Bob” Dickey, it’s the most prominent structure in Musella and a real icon of Georgia’s most famous crop. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s the center of life in this friendly little Middle Georgia town. If you pass through here when peaches aren’t in season, you might think it’s a ghost town, but when they are in season, it’s like a small metropolis. Everything here revolves around peaches. The season runs from the middle of May through the second week of August and Dickey Farms is open seven days a week. When I walked onto the “porch” at the packinghouse I was greeted by baskets full of these beautiful June Princes, a variety of Semi-Freestone that gets plump and sweet around the 10th of June.
A bit of history from the Dickey Farms website*: Robert L. “Mr. Bob” Dickey was an early pioneer of “multi-tasking”, being a postmaster, undertaker, depot agent and general store manager. However, his heart was in the peach industry, and we are reaping the rewards today.
In the early days of Dickey Farms mules were used to plow the orchards and also for transportation of peaches to the packinghouse. At that time, most of the work was done manually. However, “Mr. Bob” was a forward-thinker, always wanting to introduce labor saving equipment. He installed Georgia’s very first brushing machine to remove the peach fuzz. He was also one of the first producers to include a hydro-cooling system that places peaches in 35-degree water to remove field dust and slow the ripening process, making them perfect when reaching the northern markets.
Today, his grandson, Robert L. Dickey, II and his great-grandson, Robert L. Dickey, III, work together to ensure that a Dickey Farms peach is the freshest, most succulent fruit available. While “Mr. Bob” shipped all his fruit by refrigerated railroad cars, peaches today are shipped by refrigerated trucks, which can reach some markets overnight. Although many changes in the industry have been made over the last 100 years, the Dickey family still continues the tradition of providing the highest quality peach.
* Though the packinghouse dates to 1936, Dickey Farms has been involved in local agriculture since 1897.
The “porch” is filled with old-fashioned rocking chairs and plenty of ceiling fans. Numerous products made with Dickey Farms’ Georgia peaches can be found throughout. I bought pickled peaches, peach preserves, peach gumballs for the kids, and my friend bought some peach bread and syrup. If you love peaches, Dickey Farms will not disappoint.
Fresh local produce is also for sale when available.
The sweet corn looked really good.
And though the peaches are the main attraction here, the grading, sizing and sorting operation is a wonder in itself.
The Autoline Fruit Sizing System, renovated in 2010, begins by maneuvering the peaches into a single layer instead of piled atop each other, then lining them up in single rows so they can be sized.
A computerized optical sizer sorts the peaches and distributes them for packing into awaiting boxes.
Even with mechanization, the peach industry is still quite labor intensive.
It’s amazing to see such a process. So many people only know food as something from the grocery store, but at this packinghouse, everyone gets a lesson of how much work goes into our food supply. I noticed this father and his daughters enjoying the view with some homemade peach ice cream, one of the most popular products at Dickey Farms.
Just don’t forget your peaches! The employees are all very friendly and courteous and can easily answer any questions you might have. This place is a real treasure.
Visit the website for specifics and directions to Musella, as well as information on specific varieties and ripe dates. And if you can’t make it to Musella, you can order directly from Dickey Farms online.