Unsprayed local peaches available July 4 at Chert Hollow Farm

NOTE: THIS IS A 2012 NOTICE, IT IS NOT CURRENT.

A new orchardist near Boonville is trying to raise peaches with no sprays whatsoever; her peaches are coming on strong, and she’s looking for buyers in her area who will give her a fair price for the extra work and risk involved in Missouri no-spray stone fruit. Thus we’re trying to help her find and connect with organically-minded Columbia consumers, and will be hosting a pick-up location for her peaches on the morning of July 4th. Read on for more information about this orchard and how to order and receive these excellent peaches, just in time to enjoy for the holiday.

Every year we buy most of our year’s supply of fruit in-season from local growers, preserving it for later use by various combinations of freezing, canning, and drying. We do this in part through a collection of like-minded friends and regional neighbors, who together can purchase & use enough fruit to really make an orchardist’s day. We’ve been able to source apples organically (Blue Heron Orchard), but items like peaches and cherries are very difficult to grow cost-effectively without chemicals in Missouri and so we’ve worked with local orchards who do their best to minimize chemical applications. This year, however, we’ve found a source for no-spray peaches and will be hosting a drop-off for personal orders on the morning of July 4.

We’ve actually already done this once this year, sending emails to our CSA customers, local buying network, and a few other acquaintances to arrange an on-farm delivery & pickup of peaches. People told us how many pecks they wanted, we sent a final tally to the orchard, she delivered them first-thing on a Saturday morning, and people came by throughout the day to pick them up from our barn, leaving payment in a cash box if we weren’t around. This worked well as a test run, so we’re going to do it again, posting on the blog this time to widen our reach and get even more peaches sold (last time the orchard sold 51 pecks through us).

We’re not reselling these in any way, just paying the orchard for the peaches personally and having folks pay us back the same amount, as anyone might do among friends; it’s a reimbursement rather than a purchase. We don’t want to deal with the regulatory and bookkeeping hassles that would involve us actually buying and reselling these (and wouldn’t make much doing so anyway), we just want to help a fellow sustainably-minded farmer, so are acting as free agents to facilitate this.

The original delivery was $14/peck, pretty low for no-spray peaches, but we were offering them sight-unseen and the orchard was still working out the best harvest and packing methods. Now that we’ve seen the product and worked out some kinks with the orchard, we’re going to raise the price to more accurately reflect the value and work involved in raising no-spray peaches here. The July 4th peaches will be $20/peck, and will have some insect damage though should be quite edible and usable if you’re willing to work around some bad spots. Compared to the last round, these should be more uniformly ripe within the box (see more info below). For reference, conventional (sprayed) peach seconds at market (also with some damage or deformities) go for ~$12/peck, while firsts go for ~$24/peck. So you’re paying between the two prices for conventional, with a discount from “perfect” peaches but above sprayed seconds to account for the cleaner status. Read on below for more information from the orchard on how she’s handling the peaches.Above left, the last peach delivery in our barn. Above right, Red Haven peaches ready to pick (image courtesy Sarah Williams).

HOW TO ORDER

If you want in on these peaches, email us by 4pm Tuesday July 3rd with how many pecks you want at $20/box. We’ll tally the results and pass them along to the orchard. They will be available here after 9am July 4th, and because they’ll be sitting on the floor of our packing barn (the white one up the hill), the sooner you get them the better (we don’t have cold-storage space for them). We will be working that day, like every day, and so may not be around when you arrive. There will be a checklist and cash box with the peaches; take your quantity, leave money, and enjoy. Exact change or check made out to Eric Reuter (NOT to the farm, this is not a sale).

This may be the last time we host a distribution for these; this will fill our needs for the year and we don’t have time to keep arranging more. So if you can’t make this date, feel free to contact the orchard (see below) and try to set something up on your own.

HOW TO USE & PRESERVE THEM

We have multiple ways to handle fresh peaches. Good, ripe ones get cut up and canned (above left). Peaches with soft spots or too much damage get trimmed and tossed into a pot with some water, where we cook them down with some cinnamon and sugar, then blend into peach sauce (above right), which can be frozen for later use (we especially like to mix such things with yogurt). Underripe ones also do well handled this way, as the flavor still comes through overall and they soften with cooking. We also pour some of the thickened peach sauce into a large glass baking dish and bake at 200 overnight to further thicken into peach butter, which we then can in small jars. The skins & trimmings go to the pigs, the pits to the chickens to clean off the last bits of flesh. Peaches can also be cut up, mixed with a bit of sugar, and frozen for straight eating in winter. We also select some especially good ones for drying, cutting them into thin slices and running through our food dehydrator for a real winter treat. And, of course, we eat loads of them just as they are for as long as they last.

MORE FROM THE ORCHARD

If you have other questions about the peaches, feel free to contact:

Sarah Williams
Storybook Farm
Boonville MO 65233
storybsw@gmail.com

(573) 303-6999

Sarah also shared the following details with us, in response to some discussion and feedback on the first round of deliveries.

1.   I have modified my harvest selection method by matching degree of ripeness in each box as closely as possible, even though it means harvesting against Extension and FGN criteria that I started out with, which was essentially stripping each tree as they became ripe.

2.  I ask for final numbers on orders no later than 8am the day of delivery, and make deliveries that afternoon. If someone wants a morning delivery, I pick after 4pm the day prior.

3.  I have installed a high efficiency window AC unit in a well insulated concrete floored 9 x 15 room (modified cool-bot) which I am able to (much to my surprise) keep at 50degrees F where I immediately place the peaches on the floor with a fan circulating the air on them until I load immediately for delivery.

4. I include a short written guidance stapled to each box on how to best care for your peaches….. with an emphasis on the fact they need to be refrigerated ASAP and are best consumed/processes within 48 hours of receipt.

5. Finally, I continue to work on a post harvest rinse, which originally was a white vinegar solution, but now I am trying a 10% bleach solution. While the bleach may be a slightly more effective, the primary problem is the fact the fuzz on the peach creates an amazing (!) water barrier, clearly visible to the eye, so without a soap “spreader sticker” it does not penetrate to the skin. I have yet to find a soap product that does not react in a toxic (to me) manner with the bleach.  Any suggestions here would be greatly appreciated.

6. With the above modifications and continuing efforts to educate my consumers on how to care for an un-fungicided peach my satisfaction is increasing, and a significantly greater number of peaches per box are usable.

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