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Peaches best part of festival

August 14, 2010|By DON AINES
  • Joshua Lesher hands over a heavy pack of peaches to Sandy Hargis Saturday at the 31st annual Leitersburg Peach Festival.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

LEITERSBURG --When asked what the best part of the 31st annual Leitersburg Peach Festival was, Crystal Strother of Hagerstown was not the only one to come up with the obvious answer.

"The peaches," she said.

Many of the thousands who attended the festival on Saturday carried off pecks of peaches and peach products, along with crafts and other goods available at Leitersburg Ruritan Community Park.

But without the peaches and the people who grow them, it might just be another summer festival.

"I'm the fourth generation of John Martins on Ivy Hill Farm," 76-year-old John R. Martin said. To his right was a member of the fifth generation, his daughter Karen Lyon, and a few feet away was a sixth generation, grandson John Justin Martin.

They sold Loring and Harmony peaches, peach preserves, peach butter, peach salsa and peach salad dressing as a crowd lined up at the Ivy Hill Farm tent. They also sold peach cider slush, a concoction of frozen apple juice with peach nectar added, the elder Martin said.

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"We're going to sell about 300 bushels of peaches, which is a handsome amount of money to bring in," said the Smithsburg farmer, whose family has been growing fruit since before the Civil War. That is equivalent to the production of one acre with 100 trees, he said.

Martin says their aim is to produce a peach 3 inches in diameter, about the size of a baseball. There was plenty of fruit on the trees this season, but the fruit has to be thinned so that each peach is about 8 inches apart to achieve that ideal size, he said.

Dry weather and sunshine do encourage sweeter fruit, but rain is important in the days leading up to harvest, Martin said.

Not far away, Jeff Barr sold peaches from his farm, Barr Orchard. His production goes mostly onto the wholesale fruit market, but he expected to sell about 350 bushels during the festival.

Barr Orchard has been at the festival every year, starting out by selling fruit off the back of a truck, he said.

"The crop started really well with a lot of moisture," but then dry conditions hit, resulting in smaller sizes for some varieties. Some peach growers also lost production to stink bugs this summer, Barr said.

Much of the peach crop already has been harvested, but Cresthaven, Encore and Baby Gold Seven varieties still are to be brought in, said Barr, whose family has owned the orchard since 1934.

Each year, Antietam Dairy in Waynesboro, Pa., produces hundreds of gallons of premium peach ice cream and it usually sells out, said Lynn Bibbee, secretary of the Leitersburg Ruritan and chairwoman of the peach pie contest.

The panel of judges, which included Sherryl Lewis Shriver of Cavetown's Lewis Orchards, state Sen. Donald F. Munson and his grandson, Harrison Hoover, were applying themselves to the work.

"This is tough duty," Munson said, sampling a forkful of pie.

The festival continues today.




If you go



What: 31st annual Leitersburg Peach Festival

When: Today, noon to 5 p.m.

Where: Leitersburg Ruritan Community Park, 21427 Leiter St., Leitersburg

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