Kathleen Kochanski, advertising writer

For the first time in our area, the Georgia-based Peach Truck will make two stops this summer at the Canton Road Garden Center to sell Georgia peaches, handpicked no more than 48 hours earlier. With nearly 800 miles separating where the peaches are grown from where they’ll be sold, how is this possible?

After speaking to Stephen Rose, co-founder of the Peach Truck with his wife, Jessica, I’m convinced that passion and planning are at the heart of it.

The idea for the Peach Truck evolved from the passion Stephen has for his native peaches. He grew up eating the sweet, juicy fruit in Fort Valley, Ga., the “epicenter of Georgia peach country.” The owners of the nearby Pearson Farm, the oldest peach farm in Georgia, are close family friends. They have been farming the same land for five generations.

After college, Stephen and his wife, Jessica, a native of Seattle, Wash., settled in Nashville, Tenn. When Stephen couldn’t find peaches in Nashville that tasted as good as the ones in Georgia, he took his wife home for a visit to the Pearson Farm. He wanted her to taste Georgia peaches for herself.

As Stephen put it, “Your first bite into a fresh Georgia peach is more than a taste, it is an experience.” He credits Georgia’s climate and red clay soil for that. “We have a good, cold winter and a hot, muggy summer,” he said. “Georgia is a miserable place to live in the summer, but it’s perfect for peaches.” And when it rains, the red clay soil holds in the nutrients that nourish the peaches.

Jessica’s first bite ignited a peach passion similar to her husband’s.

Following a suggestion from Pearson Farm that the couple start selling the peaches in Nashville, the idea for the Peach Truck was born. In 2012, they purchased an old, beat-up Jeep truck, filled it with Pearson Farm peaches and began selling them off the back of the truck in Nashville.

As Stephen said, Nashville fell in love.

In 2013, they created the Peach Truck Tour to include first-time stops in 32 towns in Tennessee and Kentucky. This year, they expanded the tour into Ohio. By peach season’s end, the Peach Truck will have made a total of 72 stops through three states.

The planning for all these stops starts in February, a logistics challenge that honors the company’s pledge to sell peaches no more than 48 hours old. The Peach Truck is the second best thing to picking peaches on the Pearson Farm, said Stephen.

To keep it that way, the Peach Truck Tour now includes refrigerated big box trucks in a fleet that began with that beat-up Jeep truck, a revered company “mascot” that is still in use. Stops are limited to exactly 90 minutes, said Rick Haley, who works one of the Peach Trucks with his son. He will be leading the tour that stops at the Canton Road Garden Center from 2-3:30 p.m. on Monday, July 14 and Aug. 4. Freestone (Cling Free) Georgia peaches are available by the 1/2 bushel (25-pound) box for $38.

Why Canton Road Garden Center?

“We went on a road trip this spring,” said Stephen. “We wanted to see the towns we planned to visit. We heard good things about Canton Road Garden Center from the ‘locals,’” he said.

The Peach Truck wanted to partner with an independent family-owned business, said Jeannette Eberhardt of the 34-year-old Canton Road Garden Center. She is the daughter of owner and founder John Kline. “We work so hard to promote that aspect of our business,” she said, describing the partnership with the Peach Truck as “family helping family. That’s how my dad sees it,”

she said.

While you’re waiting for the Peach Truck, visit www.thepeachtree.com for recipes and instructions on various methods for preserving peaches; www.pearsonfarm.com/ for more information about the farm that grows the peaches; and www.cantonroadgarden.com, location of the first-ever Peach Truck stop in Greater Akron.

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Looking ahead to July 4 parades

David Post, president of the Summit County World War II and Korean War Roundtable, informed me that, since 2008, veterans in civilian clothing have had the option of rendering the military-style hand salute during the passing of the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem and any other events honoring our nation’s flag. The change in federal law took effect in October 2008. The Guidelines for Display of the Flag from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, referred to in the June 14 Welcome Mat column, had not been updated.