It’s All Peachy: The Best Peaches and Where To Find Them

Photo by: Pixabay

Alabama may not be the “Peach State,” a title claimed by Georgia, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have some of the best in the business. Ranking 9th among peach-producing states in America,  peaches are grown almost statewide in Alabama, however, they are more prominent in areas with specific growing conditions. The major production counties are Blount, Limestone and Chilton. Chilton being the largest peach-growing county.

Acting as the capital of peach production in Alabama, Chilton County also houses the Chilton Research and Extension Center. With over 300 varieties of peaches and nectarines being grown at the station, the center works to support fruit and vegetable growers in a variety of ways, especially through experimentation and analysis.

“We take that research data and get that to the growers through educational meetings, programs, and demonstrations,” Gary Gray, a regional agent in commercial horticulture for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System says.

According to Gray, the Chilton Area Peach Production Meeting is the primary peach educational event.

“We hold it every year in January,” Gray says. “We use it to update growers on the current growing conditions and specifically the winter conditions.”

Growing Conditions

Photo by: Wikimedia

Growing sweet, decadent peaches isn’t as easy as it looks. It requires a few key conditions that make for ideal peach growth.

First, a long, warm growing season in the summer is preferable.

“This allows a wide variety of peaches to be grown, including the late season peaches that ripen in September,” Gray says.

Needing at least six hours of exposure, a long summer season ensures peach plants have plenty of time to bask in the natural light.

Additionally, a somewhat chilly winter is needed in order for the peaches to gain enough “chilling hours” to reach full bloom in the spring.

“We need to get temperatures between 32 degrees and 55 degrees to give those fruit crops time to go fully dormant and stay dormant long enough to bloom and fruit,” Gray states. “Generally, the ones with medium to high chill requirements do the best for us.”

Photo by: Pixabay

Chilton County is filled with high elevation regions, which are prone to warmer temperatures. Peach crops are usually planted on these ridgetops in order to get through the late spring freezes that occasionally hit Alabama and the surrounding states.

“One of the primary limiting factors to fruit production in Alabama are the late spring frosts,” Gray says. “That’s where those high elevations come in handy for growing fruits like peaches.”

Gray describes how most peach crops don’t like wet “feet” or roots, making well-draining soil another important element in peach production. Soil that does not have much clay doesn’t retain water and therefore keeps the earth light and cool, optimal for growth.

Picking Your Peach

Photo by: Pixabay

“Peaches generally do not improve in sweetness once they are harvested,” Gray says. Therefore, when selecting the perfect peach, there are a few things to consider.

From firmness and imperfections to color and texture, be sure to keep an eye out for the following signs:

  1. Select peaches that show a yellow background color with a rosy blush on their cheeks.
  2. Avoid peaches with green undertones, this indicates they were picked too early.
  3. Look for peaches that give slightly at the seam when pressed with your thumb.
  4. Avoid peaches with tan circles. This is an early sign of decay.

For more information on Chilton County’s peaches and news, click here.

Creed Week: A Tradition In The Making

The Auburn Creed

“I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work. I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully. I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men. I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities. I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all. I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all. I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.” And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.”

You know it, you love it, and some can even recite it by heart. The Auburn Creed. (Photo on left: Auburn SGA)

In 1943, George Petrie put pen to paper to write out the ideals he believed made up Auburn’s foundation. Now, almost 75 years later, Petrie’s words still serve as one of Auburn’s most cherished principles.

To celebrate and recognize the history behind the Auburn Creed, Auburn’s Student Government Association developed a brand new program called “Creed Week.”

“Considering that the creed shapes our lives, it seemed only fitting to create something that highlighted and broke down those values, and celebrated the creed holistically,” Faith Webb, SGA’s Executive Vice President of Programs says.

Webb explains that the university has been looking for ways to celebrate the creed more and more each year given its impact on Auburn University’s campus.

“We see it everywhere around campus– inside buildings, on the side of buildings, and even segmented on t-shirts, computer backgrounds, and stickers,” Webb states. (Photo on right: Auburn SGA)

One particularly special aspect of Creed Week was the Be the Creed award ceremony held at the Auburn Alumni Center on Feb. 27. The event recognized Curry Cates, a senior in health services administration and this year’s recipient.

Cates was honored for his donation of stem cells to a man in France suffering from an aggressive blood cancer.

Throughout the week, SGA sponsored numerous events in and around campus to engage students, alumni, and friends throughout the Auburn community.

Just a few of the events that took place during Creed Week include:

  • “Sit Down, Make A Friend” with the Auburn Police Department and Campus Police  (Photo on right: Auburn SGA)
  • Spin the “Wheel of Kindness”
  • Letter writing to deployed alumni with ROTC, Silver Wings, Auburn Alumnae and Student Veterans
  • “I Believe in Auburn and Love It” tailgate with WEGL and Tiger Dining
  • Group Zumba and yoga classes

Through partnerships and sponsors, Webb believes a key part of SGA’s mission was fulfilled, to “unify all that is Auburn.”

“It was a physical picture of the Auburn Family coming together to celebrate something they love,” Webb states. “We see this a lot with athletics, which is wonderful, but it is always encouraging to see it happen on other occasions.

Both Webb and SGA believe Creed Week exceeded expectations in its inaugural year. However, they work to continue to grow the event even more.

“We collectively agree that the program has a lot of room to grow, but that for the first year it was a success,” Webb says.

Programs like Creed Week provide the portal for the creed to come alive in tradition, service, and spirit. It continues to shape Auburn’s atmosphere because of the dedication of students, alumni, and friends to “be the creed.” (Photo on below: Auburn University)

Alabama’s Hidden Treasure

Photo by: Encyclopedia of Alabama

You can’t miss them if you know what you’re looking for.

The Cahaba River lilies are aquatic flowering plants that bloom exclusively in three southeastern states, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Here in Alabama, the shoals of the Cahaba River is one of those select areas.

Location

The location of the lilies is concentrated on a feature called a “fall line.”

These “fall line” habitats contain sections of layered rock. This creates places for the lilies’ bulbs to wedge into the rock’s crevices, Dr. Randy Haddock, Cahaba River Society Field Director, explains.

“Anything that lives in a rocky shoal in the river has got to be pretty tough and be able to hang in there pretty vigorously,” Haddock says. “That’s what the lilies have managed to figure out.”

Their tough nature and rare beauty are huge draws for spectators, but it’s harder than you think for visitors to sneak a peek at the lilies.

Photo by: Alabama Living

“There aren’t any roads directly to where the biggest patches of lilies are,” Shane Harris, coordinator of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System‘s Tallapoosa County office, says. “The only way to get to them is by water, and those waters aren’t navigable except by kayak or canoe.”

Nevertheless, people flock to these areas for a chance to float the Cahaba and experience the dreamlike wonder of the lilies.

“It’s amazing to see patches and patches of them,” Harris states. “You can float right to them.”

Blooming

The lilies are a striking attraction against the river’s muddy banks, producing an eye-catching white bloom.

A new flower opens every night and they last only a day. Each stem, however, produces several buds, Dr. Nancy Loewenstein, an Extension specialist in forestry and wildlife sciences, explains.

Photo by: Leilani Carrol

Blooming begins the second week of May and typically runs through the middle of June, giving observers about four weeks to take in the lilies’ beauty.

“It is a bucket list kind of thing to see,” Loewenstein says. “It is beyond amazing.”

 Haddock highlights how botanist and expert on the lilies, Dr. Larry Davenport does not know of another native wildflower as celebrated as the Cahaba Lily, with three states hosting community celebrations of its blooming.

In Alabama, the West Blocton community hosts a festival with speakers, storytelling activities and a chance for visitors to view the lilies. The festival takes place every year on the third Saturday in May.

Threats

To withstand a dynamic environmental and social environment, the lilies must work to combat threats.

According to Haddock, the biggest issue facing the lilies is stream flow shifts because of urbanization.

Erosion causes stream banks to begin to collapse, washing trees downstream.

“We are seeing big chunks of trees bang into the rocks where these lilies are and dislodge them,” Haddock says. “That clump washes downstream and eventually into the Mobile Bay or the Gulf of Mexico.”

Sedimentation can also affect the lilies. If any bit of sediment fills the nooks and crannies where the lilies grow seeds, cultivation could be compromised, Loewenstein, says.

Wild Taro

Another threat to the survival of the lilies, according to Loewenstein, is an invasive plant species called wild taro.

“If these plants get into the stream, they take root in the exact same place where the Cahaba Lily seeds would want to grow,” Loewenstein says. “They take the habitat that could be the Cahaba Lilies’.”

Photo by: Outdoor Alabama

Loewenstein describes two key factors in keeping the wild taro at bay.

The first is prevention. All parts of the wild taro plant can sprout with the right environmental conditions, therefore, Loewenstein suggests avoiding tossing any part of the plant into the environment.

“Don’t use wild taro anywhere near streams, especially if you are near the upper reaches of the Cahaba River where plants can escape downstream into the shoal,” Loewenstein states.

The second is control. The plant can be very difficult to regulate once it is established, so it is vital to keep its sprouting at bay.

Whether it is urbanization, sedimentation or cultivation of new plants, the Cahaba Lily cannot fight these hazards on its own. It is up to citizens and visitors to ensure this hidden treasure’s survival.

For more information, visit the Cahaba River Society.

Behind the Scenes: Auburn’s Mission Control

Unknown to many students and friends is the hub of all things Auburn media, War Eagle Productions. (Photo on right: Julie Anne Jacobs)

A modest brick building, War Eagle Productions is situated on the corner of Donahue Drive and Samford Avenue. Though small in stature, it packs a big punch.

War Eagle Productions oversees all video content for Auburn sports including ESPN and SEC Network broadcasts, video board, the web and social media content.

“Pretty much any creative video, we are involved with it,” Andrew Young, Assistant Athletic Director of Video Services says.

From highlight reels to feature videos, creative content comes from every direction. Ideas from War Eagle Productions staff and coaches along with team requests contribute to making content worthy of showcasing.

“If they want something, we do our best to make sure they get it,” Young says.

On scales both big and small, the minds behind the magic work relentlessly to engage the Auburn Family, churning ideas all year long.

For students and fans, content displayed may be viewed for just a few minutes or maybe even seconds. However, for War Eagle Productions, The project may be months in the making.

“You can have one clip that takes no time at all, and then something that you spend six to eight months developing,” Young states.

An Unlikely Subject

One particularly special project was developed after the second grade class from Schmid Elementary School visited the Plains.

The students were given exclusive access to all things Auburn and War Eagle Productions was there to capture every smile and heartfelt “War Eagle!” (Photo on left: Office of Communication and Marketing, Auburn University)

Football sets the tone for every other sport and every other video board. Therefore, several months are devoted to perfecting every detail for the game day experience.

“We are already getting ready for football now for next year,” Young says, “developing its look and feel.”

While fans are enjoying tailgates and Tiger Walk, you can find over 50 people working on television shows, video board projects and creative content in the War Eagle Productions headquarters.

“We mainly use students to help fill those roles,” Young says, “actually pushing those buttons and doing the camera work.”

The Intern Experience

Henry Cowan, a senior majoring in media studies is one of those students. Currently training to be an engineer, Cowan works as an intern with War Eagle Productions.

Cowan says his responsibilities involve setting up and breaking down equipment, assisting SEC Network broadcasters and operating cameras at events.

“I have learned so much working at War Eagle Productions,” Cowan states. “I wish I had started sooner.”

Out of all the sports Cowan has been able to work with, he says – not surprisingly – football games are the most enjoyable. (Photo on right: Auburn Athletics Department)

“I was able to see big plays happen right in front of me while recording them on camera,” Cowan says. “It was really satisfying when my camera shots got up on the jumbotron.”

War Eagle Productions also utilizes full-time staff. Young says students are the heartbeat behind the operations.

“Seeing how they come in with no experience and leave here being seasoned veterans, is fun,” Young states.

Hands-on experience is key in the media industry and Auburn students are taking advantage of every opportunity.

“We have a great opportunity right in front of us to be able to get in a setting where we can learn live sports broadcasting and learn it well,” Cowan says. “The jobs that I am performing right now are jobs that are actually in live sports broadcasting in the work world.” (Photo on left: War Eagle Productions)

Workplace Ready

Staff and students are committed to showing off every aspect Auburn offers. This commitment paired with the skills gained from experience prepare students for whatever their future holds.

“They do so much in their time here that they are set up to go out and have success if they choose to go on that path,” Young says.

So the next time you tear up watching a feature or get chills during a pregame hype video, remember Auburn’s mission control and the team only a few blocks away in a little brick building.

They work when no one’s watching to help Auburn do what only Auburn can do, make each member of the Auburn Family feel a little bit closer to home.

To watch the Schmid Elementary video, click below.


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