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The Georgia Peach
Culture, Agriculture, and Environment in the American South


Award Winner

Part of Cambridge Studies on the American South

  • Date Published: March 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107417717

£ 19.99

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About the Authors
  • Imprinted on license plates, plastered on billboards, stamped on the tail side of the state quarter, and inscribed on the state map, the peach is easily Georgia's most visible symbol. Yet Prunus persica itself is surprisingly rare in Georgia, and it has never been central to the southern agricultural economy. Why, then, have southerners - and Georgians in particular - clung to the fruit? The Georgia Peach: Culture, Agriculture, and Environment in the American South shows that the peach emerged as a viable commodity at a moment when the South was desperate for a reputation makeover. This agricultural success made the fruit an enduring cultural icon despite the increasing difficulties of growing it. A delectable contribution to the renaissance in food writing, The Georgia Peach will be of great interest to connoisseurs of food, southern, environmental, rural, and agricultural history.

    • Covers an extensive time span, from the mid-1800s through the early 2000s, taking a biographical approach that makes for an engaging storyline
    • Deals with a surprisingly wide range of topics, including botany, plant breeding, and peach biology; landscape and beauty; labor, race, and immigration; agricultural marketing and urban-rural linkages; African American rural reform; and seasonality
    • Relevant to a wide range of readers, including academic and general readers of southern, environmental, rural, agricultural, and food history
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    • Co-Winner, 2018 Malcolm Bell, Jr, and Muriel Barrow Bell Award, Georgia Historical Society

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Blessed with artistry, modesty, empathy, and discernment, William Thomas Okie is the perfect guide to a southern landscape where the power of environmental beauty is inspiring as well as oppressive.' Jared Farmer, author of Trees in Paradise: A California History

    'Here is that rare book that delivers a lot more than it promises. In addition to 'culture, agriculture, and environment', Okie deftly incorporates race, science, technology, marketing and other national and global forces into a seamless interpretive synthesis, which in turn, provides the backdrop for a beautifully rendered, tart-sweet human narrative richly evocative of the eponymous fruit of the title.' James C. Cobb, University of Georgia

    'This fabulous book will change the way you think about your favorite fuzzy fruit. Georgia's most touted crop was as much the product of southern politics and advertising as it was water, sun, and red Georgia clay. Covering tasty topics from agribusiness and immigrant labor to race and environmental history, it helps us understand what we eat and why we eat it. Don't miss a bite.' Cindy Hahamovitch, University of Georgia

    'Ty Cobb was nicknamed 'The Georgia Peach', and like Cobb, William Thomas Okie's book is crafty, quick, thoroughly accomplished, and maybe even a little dangerous. Unlike Cobb [however], The Georgia Peach also opens our eyes to both the ridiculousness and the beauty of human beings' relationship with the natural world.' Aaron Sachs, Cornell University, New York

    '… a new book tracing the history of the Georgia peach serves as an entertaining and enlightening review of the state's cultural evolution over the last 200 years and an instruction book for today's policymakers. … broadened insight flows like the juice of a fresh peach eaten in the shade of the tree it was picked from.' The Newnan Times-Herald

    'Ever wonder why they call Georgia the Peach State? Thomas Okie will tell you. … He knows why we brag about it, marvel at it and generally try to name 57 different streets in downtown Atlanta after the tasty fruit scientists call Prunus persica. Okie, an author, historian and professor at Kennesaw State University, tells how it all came to be in his new book …' Bill Kirby, Augusta Chronicle

    'Kennesaw State University Assistant Professor of History William Thomas Okie has written a marvelously entertaining and informative book on the history of the peach crop in the South …' Jim Morekis, Connect Savannah

    'Not merely about the cultivation of the fruit, what follows is a complex story surrounding Prunus persica that starts long before this fruit and the state of Georgia became connected in the minds of a nation. This history is, necessarily, a story that contends with wider themes of agriculture, business, southern politics, and race and does not forget the beauty and mythology that surrounds this fruit. … There are many works about the history of peach cultivation but none such as this about Georgia. The work is appropriate for institutions with programs in American or agricultural history or programs in agriculture or business. It will be particularly valuable for all public and academic libraries in Georgia. Summing up: recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; faculty and general readers.' CHOICE

    'This is a peach of a book … Okie's ability to weave disparate threads into a coherent and engaging whole makes it a model for other historians to follow and explains why the book has garnered awards on many fronts.' George B. Ellenberg, The American Historical Review

    'The cover of this book makes me want to eat [a peach], and will make many people want to read the book. Covers can and do sell books, and this book should rightfully be judged by its cover: it is an exceptional piece of historical scholarship on so many levels.' Sterling Evans, Enterprise & Society

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107417717
    • length: 319 pages
    • dimensions: 150 x 230 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • contains: 29 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. A wilderness of peach trees
    2. The baron of pears
    3. Elberta, you're a peach
    4. A Connecticut Yankee in King Cotton's court
    5. Rot and glut
    6. Blossoms and hams
    7. Under the trees.

  • Author

    William Thomas Okie, Kennesaw State University, Georgia
    William Thomas Okie is Assistant Professor at Kennesaw State University, Georgia, where he teaches American history, food history, and history education. Trained in environmental and agricultural history at the University of Georgia, he has produced work that has won prizes from the Society of American Historians, the Southern Historical Association, and the Agricultural History Society. He has written for the journal Agricultural History and the Southern Foodways Alliance's quarterly, Gravy.


    • Co-Winner, 2018 Malcolm Bell, Jr, and Muriel Barrow Bell Award, Georgia Historical Society

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