The Florida peach season is three weeks away from getting underway. “The crop is a little light compared to last year. Most of our trees are 10-11 years old and they’re kind of slowing down a little bit and aren’t what they used to be,” says Ken Edison of Deer Park Peaches in Saint Cloud, Florida.
As for the growing season, while the necessary chill hours have been met, the grower is watching the recent hot weather. “Right now it’s really dry. It also got hot sooner than normal so we’re struggling with that a little bit. When it rains, it really helps with the sizing of the peaches. We irrigate but that only does so much,” says Edison, adding that the season lasts between three to five weeks.
The state of U-pick
Meanwhile, he anticipates good demand for the peach season. Its operation has transitioned to U-pick only and last year it sold 20,000 lbs. via U-pick. “We started out with only a small bit of U-pick and we were also picking, packing and selling to stores,” says Edison. However, Deer Park moved away from retail markets for a few reasons--it was not well-developed, it lacked distribution channels and put the impetus on the grower to also be the harvester, packer, distributor and transportation system. “We got $1.50/lb. to pick, pack and deliver peaches and U-pick is $3.00/lb. and they pick it themselves so we put our energy into that,” he says.
For Deer Park, it’s also gratifying to see people come to the farm and learn about growing produce. In turn, it’s hopeful that by doing that, there will be more understanding about the challenges of farming and continue to be a future for small family farms like Deer Park.
As for pricing this season, Edison believes pricing will be stronger this season. “We had to get the peaches thinned and for labor, we were paying $16/hour/person and now we’re paying $24. Fertilizer went from $350/ton to $700/ton. All of it went up,” he says. “We hate to do it because we have repeat and loyal customers and they’re getting hit from all sides. Yet, so are we.”
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Deer Park Peaches