For the Love of Peaches
The Roses run a blossoming business around their passion for perfect peaches
By Jennon Bell Hoffmann
A peach is many things: juicy, sweet, nostalgic, iconic—but life-changing?
For Stephen Rose, a Georgia peach fresh off the tree is just that. In fact, he and his wife Jessica have built their business, the Peach Truck, around a firm belief: Having a succulent Georgia peach within hours of it being picked will alter the way you think of—and taste—peaches.
The Peach Truck, which sells Georgia peaches at farmers markets, roadside stands, and other locations throughout Texas, the Midwest, and the Mid-Atlantic region, started with a search for a taste of home. When Stephen moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2010, he was surprised how hard it was to get quality peaches. It wasn’t that peaches weren’t available. But the juicy, perfectly ripe stone fruits he knew from his childhood days in Fort Valley, Georgia—just a state away—were nowhere to be found.
“[As a kid], I remember going to restaurants and knowing which used real peaches and which used canned,” Stephen says. “I was real snobby about it.”
Instead of questioning Stephen’s obsessive search, Jessica immediately understood. Having grown up in Washington, she fondly recalls picking and savoring fresh fruit as a kid.
“I have great memories picking blackberries and using the apple cider press. Food is an incredible tool for connection because it conjures up emotions and provides comfort, so much [so] that I could easily jump on this train and feel that nostalgia,” says Jessica. “Also, I’m very much into things that are done well. The farms in Georgia that keep the peach state name, they are doing it so well.”
“Food is an incredible tool for connection because it conjures up emotions and provides comfort, so much [so] that I could easily jump on this train and feel that nostalgia.” -Jessica Rose
Prepping For The Peach Business
Stephen’s obsession with perfect peaches became the couple’s joint passion. But transporting fruit and maintaining a just-picked level of freshness means mastering a very short window of time. Unfortunately, interstate shipping tends not to bode well for fruit as sensitive as peaches.
“Peaches cannot handle time off the tree. [The fruit] responds to its environment. It needs to be picked and put in the consumer’s hands within days, which is not the case for apples or bananas,” Stephen says.
But the heart—and taste buds—want what they want, so Stephen and Jessica decided to tackle the challenge of getting peaches from the best Georgia farms to consumers with as few steps as possible. In 2012, the Peach Truck was born.
That year, the couple spent nights and weekends on their passion project, selling Georgia peaches out of the cab of their 1964 Jeep truck.
“It really took off,” Stephen says. “Before the next peach season, we both quit our jobs and said, ‘Let’s see if we can do this full-time.’ And here we are in our eighth peach season.” Today, the Peach Truck still operates that Jeep, along with two semi-trucks, and has a presence at more than 100 farmer’s markets and specialty stores in several states. The company also offers a peach subscription service and direct shipping, as well as branded merchandise.
But growth hasn’t been simple. Getting to where the Peach Truck is today required a lot of forethought and consideration, and a bit of luck.
“Stephen and I are both middle children, always toed the line […] of doing the right thing, but I’ve always had a desire to work for myself, and to build a life around that freedom,” Jessica says. Smart financial planning positioned the Roses to seize the opportunity when it arose.
“We were in our early 20s and felt this is the time to take a risk,” she says.
Any new business, especially one that operates seasonally and at the whim of a sensitive crop, faces risks and hurdles.
“That was the fear of starting a business: wondering ‘Am I just nostalgic for these peaches? Will anybody else care about this?’” Stephen says.
However, the couple approached some of that risk as an opportunity. “The benefit of a seasonal business is that we have built-in time to see what worked, what didn’t work, to reassess and move forward,” Jessica says. “[Seasonality] gives us that chance to think it through.”
And the Roses have continued to regularly evaluate their business. “We’re in our eighth season but we treat each season like its own [learning experience],” she adds.
All In The Family
For Jessica and Stephen, another advantage of owning a seasonal business is the flexibility to shape their work lives around their home lives. Proud parents to 4-year-old Florence and 2-year-old twins Wyatt and Rainier means that the Rose household is just as busy as the Peach Truck business.
“I don’t have a title except founder within the company because every year I can shift and move, make and create [positions] to see what we want and need to be part of,” Jessica says. “As the company grows, my plate gets fuller and we can hire somebody so that I can focus on the things I need to focus on.”
“We have balance,” Stephen says. “In the slow season, we don’t talk about business much at all. But it is peach season now, so it’s running our lives in some ways, and that’s great for us.”
“It’s our livelihood,” Jessica adds. “The business is a fluid thing through our lives; it’s such a fun gig to have and bring our kids into it.”
Since work and home life blend seamlessly for the Roses, it was a natural progression for them to not only sell peaches but to share their favorite recipes with their followers. After years of posting the best uses for “the queen fruit” on the Peach Truck website, the Roses were approached by a literary agent to develop a cookbook: The Peach Truck Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes for All Things Peach hits store shelves June 25.
Of their success, Stephen says humbly, “We just take the next right step. It looks like it has moved fast—and it has—but it has been about making the next right decision for us and going with it.”
And as for the peach obsession that started it all, Stephen is as ardent as ever. “It’s a singular focus. Every peach we think about and consider. The shelf life is so short; it’s a massive labor of love when you see people bite in for the first time. It’s a game-changer.”
[RECIPE 1] Recipe: The Ultimate Sticky Buns
A favorite family tradition was born with these sticky, sweet, delectable treats, which the Roses enjoy on Christmas morning. But there’s no reason these buns shouldn’t be on your breakfast table every other day.
Yields: 9 buns
Hands-on Time: 37 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours, 37 minutes, plus overnight dough chilling
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 ¾ teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup whole milk, warmed to 105 to 110 degrees
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces, at room temperature
3 cups chopped peaches (about 1 pound)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans, lightly toasted
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans, lightly toasted
1. Make The Dough
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, whisk together the flour and yeast. Add the granulated sugar, salt, eggs, and milk and mix on medium-low speed until the dough is well combined, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed to incorporate the flour.
Continue mixing and gradually add the butter a few pieces at a time, scraping sides of bowl as needed, waiting until each addition of butter is incorporated before adding more. (The dough may start to look separated—this is OK, just keep mixing.) Once all the butter has been added, increase mixer speed to medium-high and mix for 5 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixer. Cover the dough and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.
On a clean surface, punch down the dough and form it into a ball. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Make The Filling:
In a medium saucepan, combine the peaches, granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Cook over medium-high heat until peaches begin to break down, about 5 minutes. Mash the peaches with a potato masher. Cook 3 minutes more, or until thickened. Stir in the cinnamon. Remove from heat and let cool completely. The filling can be refrigerated overnight.
3. Make The Glaze:
Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the brown sugar, honey, and salt and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat; whisk in the vanilla.
Pour the mixture over the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the coarsely chopped pecans over the glaze.
4. Make The Sticky Buns:
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 16-inch-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border on the long side farthest from you. Sprinkle the filling with the finely chopped pecans. Starting with the long side closest to you, roll the dough up as tightly as possible. Pinch the seams to seal.
Place the dough log seam side down. Cut the log crosswise into 9 equal pieces.
Place the pieces cut side up over glaze in prepared pan. Cover and let rise 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.
While dough is rising, preheat oven to 350 degrees and position the racks in the center and lower third. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Place the buns on the rack in the center of the oven. Place the prepared baking sheet on the rack under the buns to catch any syrupy drips. Bake for 40 minutes, then cover the buns with foil to prevent over-browning, and bake another 10 minutes, or until golden brown, bubbling, and a toothpick inserted in the center of a bun comes out clean.
Run a knife along the edges of the pan to loosen the buns. Invert the pan onto a serving platter or large plate. Wait 10 minutes before removing the pan and serving.
Lightly edited and published with permission from “The Peach Truck Cookbook” by Jessica N. Rose and Stephen K. Rose. Copyright © 2019 by S&J Rose, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
To learn more about the Peach Truck, including the Peach Truck tour, cookbook, merchandise, and shipping Georgia peaches directly to your home, visit www.thepeachtruck.com.
Jennon Bell Hoffmann writes lifestyle and human-interest stories from her home in Illinois.