Growing a Tradition
"My father and my grandfather developed the orchards," Jan Williams says. "It's a part of life."
Williams' father died in 2005 but left a legacy behind.
"The three men who helped Dad with the farm now help us," she says.
Williams and her husband, Art, opened the stand in 1985, offering the public the result of 30 acres of land and 4,000 trees filled with peaches from the end of May and harvested through September.
"Each variety lasts a couple of weeks," says Williams. "And we pray every year for a good crop. That means no freeze."
Her father used to say that if there was a freeze the family would be in the poor house.
Picking began May 24 this year. Peach varieties are numerous, and the Williams' permit customers to pick their own if they choose. The "Cling" varieties, of which there are eight, ripen from the beginning of June until near the end of the month.
There are more than 25 "freestone" varieties. This type of peach ripens from the end of June and continues through September. Some of the peaches are aptly named "Ellerbe" and "Biscoe."
"We have white peaches as well as yellow," Williams says. "'China Pearl' and 'Carolina Belle' are good examples of the white peaches."
This year Williams planted more trees.
"And we have added five more varieties," she says.
The orchards are behind the stand where crops are tended. The peach trees blossom in March. During the early months of April and May, the trees have to be thinned out. Ninety percent of the peaches must be off the trees, or the limbs would break and the peaches would be small.
Kalawi Farm has not only established itself as one of the top peach growers in the county, but also as a favorite ice cream maker.
Ben's Ice Cream Shop, so named after the Williams' fourth child, has become very well known in the area. The name "Kalawi" is used to honor the Williams' children, Katie, Laura and Will.
"Ben was a surprise," Williams says, "so when I retired from teaching school after 10 years, and we started the ice cream shop in 1991, we used Ben's name."
Will is currently studying agri-business in college. Williams hopes all the children will return to the farm.
"But we don't know what they'll do," she says. "We can only hope."
Williams hopes her family will continue the operation. Currently they each work at the business, each contributing something whether it is selling ice cream, harvesting produce, or working the stand.
"Years ago we had a family tradition every Sunday afternoon," she says. "We would make peach ice cream at home. So we decided to share it with everyone. We work real hard to make the best ice cream."
The ice cream is made five gallons at a time, using the old-fashioned method of rock salt and other original ingredients. On a busy day as much as 120 gallons of ice cream is sold, mostly peach.
Other flavors include vanilla, strawberry, blueberry, pineapple, chocolate, cookies and cream, chocolate chip cookie dough, cherry, and banana.
The second best seller at the stand, after peaches, is sweet corn. The farm also grow cantaloupes and watermelons.
"By July 1, everything will be local," says Williams, "mostly ours."
The Williams also have a fully-operational row crop farm where wheat, soybeans and corn are grown, supplemented with pinestraw that is for sale.
Art Williams uses a pest management program and an irrigation system, using large divots. This takes a lot of work and know-how to keep the crops in good condition. He minimizes the spray routine.
"We have to control the pests on fruit trees or else there won't be any fruit," Art Williams says. "We spray to the best of our ability every few weeks."
Irrigation is done with a hose tow traveler.
"It's like a big fishing reel," he says. "I can judge, from experience with the soil, how much watering is required."
Williams fertilizes twice yearly.
"We use a calcium nitrate and spread it down the base of the tree on both sides,"he says. "We also use 5-10-30. We're going to have good fruit this year -- 'clean' fruit as a result."
One of the big things that the Williams family offers is a sample, a taste of all the available varieties.
"That way everyone can decide what to purchase," says Jan Williams. "My dad began this. It was his idea."
You can pick your own box of peaches at the stand or you can pick directly from the tree in the orchard. "A lot of people do it for the experience, and it's great for the family," she says.
Peaches can be picked from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Kalawi Farms is located at 1515 N.C. 211 in Eagle Springs. For further information, the stand phone is 910-673-5996.
Anita Stone is a Raleigh freelance writer. She may be reached at writer7136@yahoo. com.
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