Stephen and Jessica Rose from The Peach Truck, (Photo: Lily Glass)
When Stephen Rose was trying to persuade his Seattle-born girlfriend Jessica to move to Nashville, he convinced her of some of the South’s virtues: front porches, lakes, and sweet, juicy peaches.
The problem was once he moved, he couldn’t find any.
To solve what the couple dubbed “the peach problem,” Rose drove to Georgia, where he grew up, and picked a peach to show Jessica what all the fuss was about.
They decided if they were willing to drive across state lines to get these peaches, other Nashville residents could become converts. The couple married, and when they got back from their honeymoon in the summer of 2012, they started selling from a truck peaches that had been picked the day before and driven over from Georgia.
Photo: Lily Glass
They also started knocking on the doors of restaurants, offering to supply them with Georgia peaches from Pearson Farm, a fifth-generation peach farm run by a couple who were close family friends. Stephen and Jessica were so successful that the couple started seriously considering quitting their full-time jobs.
“I felt like at 26, I was signing up for the rest of my life to this monotonous daily corporate grind,” says Rose, who worked in corporate sales. “We got to talking, and said what if we give up our summers — and our summers are insane — but literally have five months to do whatever we want to do.”
By the summer of 2013 they took the plunge. The business has now expanded to include 50 “peach slingers” who work across Nashville selling peaches for $8 for a 3-pound bag, a team of five who sell peaches throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Indiana, and an Internet-sales business. They now sell more than one million peaches a season.
Peaches packed for shipping; Photo: Jamie Clayton
One reason these are the best peaches you’ll ever have, Rose boasts, is because The Peach Truck only focuses on one item, as opposed to grocery stores, which deal with thousands.
Also, its supply chain is much more direct. By the time a peach makes it into the hands of a grocery store customer, it’s gone from the farm to a central distribution center, then to a local center. Once it’s in the grocery store, it sits in the back until they need to restock. That means weeks in between ripening on the tree and ending up in a buyer’s hand.
The Peach Truck gets peaches that are picked in the morning, packed in the afternoon, and then put on a truck ready for sale the next day. All that “extra” time on the tree makes a big difference in flavor.
Why are these peaches superior? Geography and climate play a huge role in how a peach tastes, Rose says. Georgia soil is dense red clay that holds nutrients right below the surface. During the summer, heat can hover around 95 degrees and humid during the day — and only get down to about 80 degrees at night.
Jessica and Stephen Rose talking with customers; Photo: Lily Glass
“It’s miserably hot, and that peach is suffering, day and night,” Rose says. “But that suffering builds up that sugar content and you get that sweet, juicy peach you dream about.”
Josh Habiger, the chef at Pinewood Social in Nashville, was one of the chefs that the Roses approached.
“This dude showed up one day, and says, ‘Hey man, we drove our truck down and have some peaches,’ and they were handing them out old-school style,” Habiger says. “Now, everyone in the restaurant business here is aware of The Peach Truck, everyone uses their peaches.”
The peaches are making appearances in dishes like a peach and burrata salad at Pinewood Social.
“Right now we’re at the peak where peaches are just perfect,” Habiger says. “You take a bite and it just runs down your face.”
Fellow chef Sean Brock, who is behind Husk, the famed restaurant with locations in Charleston and Nashville, came across The Peach Truck while at a farmers market.
“I could smell the peaches a mile away,” Brock says, and sought out the couple to learn more.
Brock liked that the peaches were produced in a way that preserved sustainable farming traditions from multiple generations. The farm isn’t certified organic — the humid southeast can make bugs a problem — but pesticides are only used as a last-line of defense, and care is taken to make sure the soil is full of nutrients for next year’s crop.
“It’s rare for peach farmers to follow old-fashioned and sustainable ways of raising them because it’s very difficult,” Brock says. “But you can smell and taste the difference.”
The peach crop is always a worry for Rose because his growing family, which now includes a baby daughter, depends on it. He says they live more simply in order to have more free time in the off-season, and they also save up for the future because they don’t know what the next growing season will look like.
And while several months off a year to travel sounds amazing — and the Roses plan to take their daughter and travel through Spain, Portugal, and Morocco — the down time isn’t all vacation. Rose has picked up other jobs, including driving for Uber, in the off-season.
The couple is also trying to make the most of this season and expand further afield. On Friday, the Roses are coming to New York City for stops at farmers and food markets.
Rose can’t wait to see New Yorkers’ reactions.
“I’ve seen people bite in and get tears in their eyes, and say, ‘I remember when I was a kid and tasted peaches like this, and I haven’t in years,’” Rose says. “I think a lot of people in New York will have that same reaction and it’s pretty thrilling.”
Craving more peaches? Here’s you go!