PEACH COUNTY, Ga. — W.L. Brown is a frequent visitor at Lane Southern Orchards.
"I've been coming to Lane's a long time, 40 years at least. I mostly come to either to buy pecans or peaches or to eat lunch," Brown said.
Brown remembers the time when visitors could walk across the popular catwalk above the packing line.
"You could watch the graders, grade the peaches out or pick them out of the conveyor belt and put them in boxes, and see how that whole operation worked, and get a feel for what goes into the end product and what all it takes to get it from the tree to the table," Brown said.
It was a major a hit with tourists, but CEO Mark Sanchez made the decision in May to shut it down for good.
"Over the last few years, the food safety regulations that we have to comply with in order to ensure that the peaches that we send to the grocery store are safe and non-contaminated, those regulations have become a little more strict," Sanchez said.
They remodeled the production facility, taking the catwalk completely out and no longer allowing public access to the packing area.
"We can't face the risk of any inadvertent contamination getting into our peach product, going out onto the shelves," Sanchez said.
Even though some customers may be disappointed, he doesn't expect the shutdown to have a major effect on tourism.
"I think everybody understands, everybody knows that we're doing everything we can to make sure the product we put out is safe for consumption," Sanchez said.
"They're in business to make money, but they also want to protect the customers and be sure that they're safe so I'm sure they'll do whatever is necessary," Brown said.
Sanchez says they're working on figuring out other ways to let visitors see the packaging process that will fit within the safety regulations.