You don’t have to go to Georgia or even Utah to pick sweet, juicy peaches. Some of the nation’s best peaches are grown here in the Valley, and the place to get them is at the annual Peach Festival at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek.
Although it takes roughly an hour to get to the farm from Scottsdale, it’s worth it. Not only can you get peaches, but the farm has a u-pick garden, live music, and activities throughout the day. The event runs two consecutive weekends: May 14-15 and May 21-22.
Plan to get there early. Schnepf Farms opens at 7:30 a.m., and there will be a crowd already for the Peachy Pancake Breakfast. For $12, you’ll get two 9” pancakes, two sausages, fresh peaches, whip cream, juice, and coffee or milk. (A one pancake with one sausage is $7.)
If you’re one of the lucky first arrivals, you may not have to wait too long. Otherwise, you’ll receive a ticket with a time to return to the line. (Accommodation can be made on a limited basis for people who would rather wait in line than receive a ticket. The Peachy Pancake Breakfast runs from 7:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. and replaces the breakfast typically available in the Country Store & Bakery.)
While you wait, it’s the perfect time to head out into the orchard. The farm grows several varieties, including Super Lady, Snow Angel, Earligrande, Springcrest, Florida Prince, and Florida King, but what’s available during the festival depends on what’s ripe at the time. Be sure to wear closed-toed shoes if you will be in the orchard.
You don’t have to pick your own peaches, though. Boxed peaches are available for sale near the Country store, and vary in price depending on the variety. Expect to pay $20-$25 per box. It’s worth it—Wine Spectator featured peaches from Schnepf Farms in its print magazine and named them the best in the country. As a bonus, the peaches are all organic and pesticide free.
In addition to peaches, the farm has a 7-acre, organic u-pick garden. Again, what’s available depends on Mother Nature, but during the festival, expect kale, Swiss chard, yellow and red beets, carrots, three kinds of lettuce, spinach, green onions, and various herbs. Produce from the u-pick garden is a reasonable $1.50 per pound. (Tip: Bring a pair of shears to trim off carrot, beat, and onion tops, if you want. Shovels are usually available in the garden to loosen carrots and onions.)
There’s also a Peachy Sampling Pavilion once you finishing picking peaches and produce. For $1, you’ll get six tickets to sample everything from peach preserves and syrup to peach salsa, granola, and licorice. If you decide to purchase something, the $1 fee will be deducted from your total.
Other activities include hay rides to the orchard, train rides, carousel rides, and a petting zoo. Although admission is free, there’s a small charge for some rides and activities.
Want to take some peachy goodness home with you? Peach pies, peach cinnamon rolls, peach cookies, peach cobbler, and other baked goods will be available for sale during the Peach Festival. To guarantee that you can get the baked good that you want, consider filling out the online order form at least 48 hours in advance. All pickups are available outside the bakery.
The farm is extremely busy on festival days. If you just want peaches and/or a pie, you can head out to the farm on the first and last weekends of May or any Thursday or Friday of the month. You’ll still be able to pick peaches and vegetables, but the other activities won’t be available.
Since you’ve driven this far, make it a day. From Schnepf Farms, head around the corner to the Queen Creek Olive Mill. The mill offers daily tours on the half hour beginning at 9:30 a.m. and running until 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 (free for children 12 and under) and can be purchased at the retail counter.
Before, after, or instead of the tour, you can sample flavored olive oils, stuffed olives, balsamic vinegars, tapenades, barbecue sauces, and more. Or, order something from the Eatery, the in-house restaurant serving eggs benedict, olive oil waffles, sandwiches, soups, salads, and wood-fired pizzas on select nights. Try the Kalamata Sandwich, which was featured on the Food Network show, “Best Thing I Ever Ate.”
If you have time, continue a few miles down the road to The Pork Shop. The bacon, sausage, and chops you can purchase at this butcher counter are featured in some of Scottsdale’s best restaurants. Also for sale are snack sticks, ribs, stuffed Iowa chops, smoked meats, and deli meats.