July is typically the height of peach season in Texas, but many of the Hill Country’s well-known peach farms don’t have as much of the savory fruit to offer this year.
A mild winter has made for a much tougher growing season than usual, forcing an early end to peach season for many Texas farms.
Jamie Vogel owns Vogel Orchard in Stonewall, Texas, outside Fredericksburg. He heads the Hill Country Fruit Council.
Vogel says peaches require a certain number of chilling hours below 40 degrees to allow the buds to grow and develop properly. This winter’s lack of cold weather limited crops.
“One thing we understand in farming in general and with fruit is that you’re going to have good years and you’re going to have bad years,” Vogel says of Hill Country farmers’ morale. “We’ve had three pretty good years – 2014, 2015 and 2016 – with 2015 being really a bumper crop. You know that when that happens you’re likely to have some years coming up that won’t be so good. It’s just part of the process.”
The Hill Country Fruit Council posted a message on their website alerting consumers. “Because the Hill Country (and Texas crop in general) is small this year, you are unlikely to find true Hill Country peaches outside of the area so be careful what you are buying.”
“You can come to the hill country and buy direct from the growers, but there’s not enough production left this season for fruit to go outside the county for wholesale purposes,” Voegel says, warning of “counterfeit peaches” grown in other areas. “Chances are if you’re seeing Fredericksburg or Stonewall peach signs, it’s unlikely that they’re actually fruit coming from this area.”
Vogel says in previous years peach farmers have had great chilling hours during the winter only to encounter destructive late freezes in March and April. “If you don’t have thick skin for something like that, you better not be in this business,” he says.
Written by Rachel Rascoe.