7 Lessons Learned at Lane Southern Orchards

Lunch with David Lane as memorable as it was delicious. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland
Lunch with David Lane was as memorable as it was delicious. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

On Thursday, June 12, 2014, I had lunch with David Lane of Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, along with six travel writers touring cool places in Georgia.

Lane Southern Orchards (LSO) is famous for growing and selling peaches and pecans.  Rightfully so, but that’s not what struck me the most.

Get a tour, pick your own tasty treats, sit and enjoy a meal in the Peachtree Café or forage for a gift for loved ones.  It’s all part of the good time had by all who visit.

The café has man-sized portions of all kinds of food: BBQ, fish, burgers and fries, along with veggies and dainty bowls of salad for those who might have already had too many helpings of BBQ, fish, burgers and fries.

You can find approximately 4.73 bazillion different kinds of jams, jellies, preserves and salsa made with peaches.  If Lane’s doesn’t have it, it doesn’t go with peaches.

If you can make it with peaches or pecans, you can find it at Lane's Southern Orchards. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland
If you can make it with peaches or pecans, you can find it at Lane Southern Orchards. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

David led us on a tour of their orchards.  He knew who planted which row of pecan trees and what happens when you do water peach trees and what happens when you don’t.  But I’ve forgotten most of that.

The farm has a tool that every man should own.  You can drive this gizmo right up to a fairly good sized tree, scoop it up with all its roots and replant it just about wherever you want.  Fascinating.  But not what I remember most.

7 Lessons Learned at Lane Southern Orchards

What I hope to always remember came from chatting with David Lane, as I tasted some of the world’s best peach cobbler and toured the farm.

How to Sell Peaches

I think David Lane knows the names of all these trees. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland
I think David Lane knows the names of all these trees. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Lane Southern Orchards sells approximately 4.73 bazillion peaches annually, give or take a few billion.

At first, they only sold wholesale.  Then folks kept knocking on their doors asking to buy peaches in small quantities.

Nobody knew what to do with those pesky people.  They were slowing down business.  They weren’t annoying anybody, but the company wasn’t a retail peach outlet and that wasn’t part of their plan.

What did the company do?  “We set a young lady out front under an umbrella and had her sell peaches,” David told us with a smile.

The peach selling season is about 10 weeks long.  They were already a couple of weeks into it, but they gave it a shot.

The result?  They sold $30,000 worth of peaches in a few weeks.  Suddenly, they were in the retail peach business.

How to Sell Ice Cream

David said his business grows from being good to his workers.  I actually believed him, especially after his first few examples.

Lane’s used to make ice cream for their summer workers.  Passed it out for free, just to express appreciation for them.  Ever have peach ice cream on a hot day?  Talk about a nice break.

But those pesky neighbors began stopping by to purchase some.  Lane’s didn’t have the capacity to make ice cream for everybody that wanted some.  So, they increased their capacity.  Now they sell approximately 4.73 bazillion helpings of peach ice cream every year.

I love that story … and it gets better.

How to Celebrate Independence Day

The 4th of July is a day off from work, unless you work at a place selling peaches and ice cream all summer long.

David was sincere when he said he didn’t like keeping his crew from being with their families on Independence Day.  So, workers were invited to bring their families to work for a couple of hours.  They were given free food, something cool to drink and some peach ice cream.

Yup.  Those pesky neighbors wanted to join the fun.

What began as a way to express kindness to folks who worked on a holiday has now become a regional celebration.  More than 5,000 peach-loving, ice-cream eating, pesky neighbors and their kin are expected to attend the Lane Southern Orchards 4th of July Celebration this year from 11 AM until 5 PM.  That gives them time to nap before watching fireworks elsewhere.

The highlights?

  • Enjoy The Kazoobie Kazoo Show with Rick Hubbard.  After a quick lesson from the master, every kid can join Rick’s marching kazoo band with a FREE Kazoo!
  • Test your flight skills in an F-15 Cockpit Simulator.  This Cockpit trainer is used to teach Air Force Pilots familiarization and emergency procedures.  Wow.

Click Here for the July 4th Celebration at Lane Southern Orchards

How to Create a Corn Maze

The Corn Maze craze only began a few years ago.  No telling who first came up with the idea, but I’ll bet they ate too much Mexican food late at night.

David was contacted by a company that offered to cut almost any imaginable image into a standing cornfield — almost as good as aliens can do from spaceships — to build a corn maze.  A puzzle for people to walk into and, maybe, walk out the other side.

Three guys, according to David, created a computer design and printed it out.  They showed up.  Picked the exact spot to start and marched into the field with precisely measured steps.  One person put 4.73 bazillion markers in the ground.  Someone else sprayed something that killed the cornstalks.  The last guy picked up the pegs.

David was stunned at how quickly they did it.  He was also amazed at how many people paid him to get lost.

Here’s how Cornumdrum at Lane’s is described:

Find the corny signs hidden along the secret paths for a chance to win prizes while you find your way out.  Worried about getting lost?  Let us put your mind at ease.  If you take a wrong turn and lose your way, you can use your cell phone and we’ll text you hints.  Or, call for our corn cops to guide you out.

How to Lure Tour Buses

There was a twinkle in David’s eyes as he told us about rewarding bus drivers for driving the extra five minutes off I-75’s Exit 142 to come to Lane’s.

Show up with a busload of folks who need a clean restroom, a meal and a peach or two, and you get a free meal and some free peaches.  Everybody’s happy and the advertising cost is zero.

The downside?  Having to create acres of parking lots for all the busses.

David Lane will give you a peachy-warm welcome when you visit Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, GA. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland
David Lane will give you a peachy-warm welcome when you visit Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, GA. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

How to Treat People

There are approximately 4.73 bazillion books that will give you clues on how to use people and how to make money off your friends.

Weeks after we met, I am still impressed with David Lane’s sincerity as he spoke passionately about treating workers like family.

We asked David about the elderly gentleman who happily pitched peaches to our group by the front door.  This honored employee has been there for decades.  I’m sure his job isn’t perfect, but it only takes a moment to tell who hates a job and who loves it.

Lane Southern Orchards made workers some ice cream to enjoy.  It revolutionized their business.

Lane’s decided to open a peach stand for their neighbors.  The rest is history.

Lane’s treat for staff members who worked on the 4th of July is now an annual destination for thousands.

Lane Southern Orchards is willing to adapt to try new things, like corn mazes.  They continue to grow.

You Reap What You Sow

Lane’s is always packed with cheerful peach lovers.  They’ll make room for you though … and your busload of people who need a peach and lessons in how to be successful in business.

The most important lesson of all?  Treat others as you would have them treat you.  Care for your staff as if they were family.

Do that and you’ll earn a good living from pesky people who want to do business with you.

Lane Southern Orchards is proof.

Click Here for Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, GA


About Author

Robert J. Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life in Gainesville, GA.
Robert has two adult daughters, seven practically perfect grandchildren and a zippy Kawasaki. Contact Robert at [email protected].

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