Weatherford Democrat

April 18, 2013

Freezes leave peach crops less than peachy

Festival organizers say event will go on


Weatherford Democrat

— By BRIAN SMITH

While the peach crop in the county is not exactly “peachy” the crop was not totally destroyed by a very hard freeze late last month.

Parker County Extension Agent Jon Green said this year’s crop will not be a “bumper crop,” thanks in part to freezes in late March. Lows in the mid-20s on both March 25 and 26, just as many peach trees were beginning to or completely had blooms “knocked back” the crop.

Green said growers took a wait-and-see approach to determine the extent of the damage. Many of the Ranger peaches, which are available here, do have an extended blooming time and appear to be in “good shape” after talking with growers.

Green said several other varieties of peaches might still be available, depending on how hard the freeze damaged individual trees.

“We’ll have a few trees that are bearing no fruit at all, but if those blooms were delayed in opening we will be able to have some peaches on those trees as well,” Green said. “There will be a few peaches around but will it be an abundant crop? The answer is no.”

This is bad news for a major Parker County festival: the annual Peach Festival in July, which draws thousands of visitors to the downtown Weatherford area. Chamber of Commerce officials, which sponsor the annual event, say the event will go on as planned.

“We’ve received some inquiries about how a smaller peach crop might change our plans and the answer is easy — our plans won’t change at all,” Tammy Gazzola, Weatherford Chamber of Commerce president, said. “We don’t yet know how the dip below the freezing point has affected our peaches locally. Regardless, we expect one of the biggest and best peach festivals ever on July 13.”

Grower John O’Bannon, who has been growing peaches near Greenwood for 20 years, said the freeze knocked out between 80 percent and 90 percent of his crops with the Ranger peaches standing up a bit better than the Redglobe variety.

“This is one of the worst hits we’ve taken as they had just started blooming, blooming, blooming,” O’Bannon said. “We thought we had survived the first (late) freeze OK and then we had one either the next night or the night after and that ruined it.”

O’Bannon said he hopes the annual peach festival won’t take too hard of a hit, saying this area and all of North Texas has the potential for freezes in late March. He said he endured a similar late freeze several years ago, but nothing like this.

All in all, O’Bannon is rather philosophical about it.

“It’s a sad thing, of course, but they will bloom again,” O’Bannon said.

Gary Hutton, whose family has been growing peaches for 33 years in the area, said his numbers were about the same. He said he had grown 18 different varieties throughout the county and some varieties did better than others.