Houston & Peach

Peach growers mourn loss of patriarch Duke Lane

The Middle Georgia peach growing community is mourning the loss of one of its longtime leaders.

John David Duke Lane Sr., who with his father founded Lane Packing Co., died Thursday. He was 87.

Fellow peach growers said Lane was an innovator and the go-to person for any questions about peaches.

“You always wanted to go ask Mr. Duke what he thought about something,” said Robert Dickey, owner of Dickey Farms. “They were always planting the new varieties and getting the new equipment, and always had the biggest and most up-to-date packing house.”

Dickey, a state representative, said Lane was one of the first people in Georgia to see the potential of agricultural tourism. Lane Packing in Peach County has covered walkways where visitors can stroll as peaches are being boxed up. The packing house, which also has a restaurant and large gift shop, draws more than 200,000 people a year.

Dickey said Lane had not been ill and died of heart failure. Funeral services were private.

Lane’s children and grandchildren continue to operate the packing house and Lane Southern Orchards, which is one of the largest peach growing operations in the state.

Al Pearson, who owns Pearson Farms with his son, said peach growers at one time viewed each other as competitors, but today there is more of a cooperative spirit. Lane, he said, was always a person he could turn to for advice.

“He was very sharp,” Pearson said. “He thought about things and he was a real sharp businessman. He was cautious, but at the same time he was a risk taker.”

In 2002, the Georgia Peach Council gave Lane the title of “Mr. Peach” for his contributions to the peach industry.

According to his obituary, he was an avid outdoorsman who loved deep sea fishing and collecting Indian artifacts. But it said “His greatest joy was to ride around the farm, overseeing the growth and harvesting of the crops.”