As one of the top four producers of peaches in the country, it’s no wonder our nickname stems from our state’s most savored fruit. So color us baffled when we realized Atlanta has yet to host a festival in celebration of our most iconic crop…That is until now.
PeachFest will be hitting the streets of Broad and Poplar in downtown Atlanta this Sunday for the first time ever. You can anticipate peaches aplenty but the festival will also act as an awareness piece for safe and responsible farming and agriculture.
With 80% of Georgia’s peach crop devastated from a warmer winter climate, it may not seem like a ripe time for PeachFest to host such a soiree. Yet the festival’s organizers think there’s no better time (we’ll get to that later). And we know Atlanta’s summer festival game is strong but there’s something extra sweet about PeachFest, so we caught up with Brady Lowe, Project Volunteer and Founder of Piggy Bank (the organization behind PeachFest), Robert McKeown, The festival’s Communication Liaise, and Sonia Sequeira, FlatironCity’s Community Development Manager, to find out why you should be there – besides noshing on delicious food and booze.
State of the Peach
When spring was in full bloom and we first heard the news about the demise of peaches this season, our inner fruit fanatic was in a frenzy. Jump forward a month later and we started noticing fliers downtown advertising PeachFest. How could ATL possibly host a festival around a crop where 80% of it has been decimated? The team behind The festival had no idea during pre-planning this event that it was going to be a bad year for peaches but that didn’t stop them – or any of the partners they are working with – to bring community together in fete of our beloved stone fruit.
“When we started the process of announcing this festival we learned that it was a really bad year for peach crops,” explained Brady. “We looked at that and thought, if a restaurant gets hit by 80% of their sales dropping or a brewery with 80% of their beer disappearing, that would really hurt them, but that’s the game of farming. To make people aware of that is why this festival is such a good advocate. So we are taking it a step further and each year there is going to be a peach stand where we’ll make a statement regarding what the season is going to be like.”
Peaches, Pigs & Plantings
Peaches are the pinnacle of PeachFest but as the team started pulling together a list of partners and volunteers to make this festival a reality, it quickly became about how to tie in community and causes.
“From a cause perspective, I think the biggest one is raising the bar on our awareness in Georgia on the impact mother nature plays on our core crops. Peaches are the perfect candidate to raise the awareness model and that’s one of the core pillars of the event. How do we take this opportunity and make it about education and awareness within the state and region? It’s really a community event for other causes and community partners to be involved. That’s the fun and strategic part of PeachFest. Yes, let’s have music and food and booze but also have some sense of awareness and education and consciousness that ties together a better lifestyle – a safer, more tasty place to be not only for yourself but for your family and your community.”
PeachFest gives the profits to Piggy Bank, a nonprofit that declares itself as the“Noah’s Arc” for heritage pigs. Their main goal? Making foodways safer, of course.
“Brady works in conjunction with T4CI (Trust for Conservation Innovation) on Piggy Bank,” explained Robert. “It’s a working farm we are in the process of building. Farmers, predominantly family farmers, will be able to use Piggy Bank as a safety net and a way to start their businesses while also offering up information sharing as a way to help these farmers evolve. Obviously, peaches are an easy way into Georgia’s agriculture but we wanted to host a festival that would celebrate the state’s agricultural diversity.”
“Guests of the festival and silent auction will also be helping plant peach trees in Atlanta. PeachFest is very excited to be working with Concrete Jungle on this endeavor each year as part of the festival. Additionally, the event will support the harvesting of neglected peach trees around the city.”
On Board with Broad Street
While folks around town often find Atlanta’s latest hotspots like Old Fourth Ward or Inman Park to host their festivals, PeachFest wanted to activate an urban space that’s often overlooked.
“There has been great community support whether it’s been from a farmer, or chef, or brewer, or a produce company owner wanting to be involved,” Robert explained. “We are also holding it downtown which has been a part of the city that is often neglected. It’s a combination of supporting urban revival with the support of FlatironCity, while at the same time, celebrating Georgia as an agricultural space.”
“We’ve had a few events on Broad Street, from happy hours to outdoor dinners, and we’re excited to take things up a notch for a big food festival,” Sonia added. “For us at FlatironCity, everything we’ve done on Broad is a celebration of Atlanta and community, and we hope to activate it to be a hub of downtown. We love new ideas and the spirit of entrepreneurship, so when PeachFest came to us with this idea of celebrating local food and chefs, we were totally on board.”
“The way we approach events allows it to not just be about the chefs or the brewers,” concluded Robert. “They all serve as different voices that activate in service of the larger cause – local agriculture. They are each a spokesperson. It becomes about community whereas a lot of festivals become commoditized and celebritized very quickly. To do one that’s all about community and charity, is a really nice and refreshing approach.”