By Michelle Leidy-Franklin
Late spring freezes in April left local peach farmers Nick and Mary Steffen of Steffen Orchard wondering if they would have any peaches at all. Peach trees are early bloomers, and that means they are more sensitive to late freezes than other crops.
“I was telling folks in June I didn’t think we were going to have any peaches,” said Mary Steffen.
The orchard placed an update on the local community Facebook page for peaches on Sunday, for the first time this season. The Red Haven variety was the only peach variety to survive the frost.
“We lost all of our first blooms. This one bloomed twice though,” said Steffen.
Though they lost all of their first blooms to the late frost, the Red Haven trees bloomed again. Steffen said that second blooms within a season are not as dependable as first blooms.
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the July 26 print edition of the Star-Argosy. To see stories like this sooner, and to get all your community news, subscribe to the Star-Argosy. Call 316-540-0500 today to get next week’s paper delivered to your home.
“They don’t always set well, or when they do they fall off small. I kept checking on them, and they were still there,” said Steffen.
Steffen was pleasantly surprised that the second bloom took. The peaches became ripe this week, and U-Pick times opened Monday at 7:30 a.m. Residents were eager to get to the orchard before the peaches were gone.
“Let’s go after I get off work, if there’s any left,” Sally Newell said in an online comment in response to the Facebook announcement.
There were about a dozen rows of peaches ready for picking. Trees were full and branches were hanging low with the weight of fruit.
Last year, Steffen Orchard’s peach crop was a total loss. None of the trees produced any fruit in 2017. Mary Steffen said she wasn’t sure how long this year’s peaches would last. Facebook was the only place she put up notice of the crop. In past years she has done more advertising and found the trees bare after one day. Other years, it has taken a week or two.
Nick and Mary Steffen welcome self-pickers from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. until the peaches are gone. They pass out boxes at the open door of the white barn just before guests enter the field.
Nick even encourages pickers to try before they buy.
“That’s how we compete with the stores. They don’t like it when you taste the peaches first. We encourage it,” said Nick Steffen.