Nestled in the gently rolling hills of the Northeast Mississippi county of Pontotoc are 123 acres of pristine orchards. Cherry Creek Orchards was established by the Adrian family in 1981, and the orchards’ second owner, Ray Stark, successfully ran the operation for many years. Wylie Stark ( a distant cousin of Ray Stark’s) and his lovely wife, Amanda, purchased Cherry Creek in 2010. I can remember eating the succulent peaches harvested from there while visiting my parents in the 80’s. And during peach season my Mother often baked decadent peach cobblers using the peaches from the orchard. On my way back to Alabama last Friday, I stopped by Cherry Creek to purchase some peaches for my family. Little did I know that my stop would turn into a full fledged field trip! After spying some luscious Concord grapes near the entrance, I inquired if I could make a few pictures. Wylie Stark, the owner, very graciously, invited me to take a tour of the orchards and summoned me to climb on his Gator. The 123 acre spread includes not only peaches, but apple orchards, pecan and chestnut tree groves, grapes, figs, blackberries, nectarines, purple hull peas and more! And I thought they just grew peaches!
Their peaches are the South’s finest! Maybe I am biased a little! Over 20 varieties are grown at Cherry Creek.
Crisp apples are beginning to ripen.
Figs will be ready for picking soon.. I can almost taste fresh fig preserves!
Gorgeous groves of pecan and chestnut trees form canopies against the blue skies.
The Chickasaw Indians who were native to the area appropriately named the area, Pontotoc, which means Land of Hanging Grapes. What extravagant Concord Grapes!
The Purple Hull Peas are being picked in preparation for the markets.
Red and blue plums…
Cascading muscadine vines with fruit ripening…
The staff works diligently this time of year getting peaches to many weekly markets around Northeast Mississippi, Memphis, Jackson, and even as far south as New Orleans.
Jose oversees Cherry Creek’s operation.
Pictured below is owner Wylie Stark along with another valuable employee, Owen Clark.
The lush acreage at Cherry Creek Orchards epitomizes the concept of “fresh local produce”. Wylie and Amanda Stark are enthusiastic, resourceful, and have a bright vision for the future. Since taking over ownership 3 years ago, the property has been used for weddings, church functions, and other gatherings. In addition, the acres of produce have been expanded. In September, a cross country run will even be hosted here! Amanda, a true Southern Belle who is a native of Natchez, envisions renovating the sales area to make it a venue for special events. Amanda pointed out that their peaches traveled to her hometown this past weekend, for the Natchez Food and Wine Festival. Sugaree’s Bakery ( http://www.sugarees.com/) in nearby New Albany, uses the peaches for one of their signature desserts which was featured there.
As the demand for quality locally grown produce continues to gain momentum, I’m quite sure Cherry Creek Orchards has many more prosperous decades ahead of them. The passion, dedication, and talent of the Starks bring the realization that local food is here to stay as they are making an investment in our future.
Packed in my baskets and ready to travel!
Stay posted for “Just Peachy” Tablescapes