Severe weather damages Hill Country peach orchards


by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

Posted on May 14, 2013 at 6:28 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 19 at 3:52 PM

FREDERICKSBURG, Texas -- Hill Country peaches are a Texas favorite but farmers say this year's severe weather nearly destroyed their crops.

Typically May marks the beginning of peach picking season in Texas but this year the crops are almost non-existent.

"You really have to search to see, but every once in a while you'll see one peach," said Dianne Eckhardt, a third generation peach grower at Donald Eckhardt Orchards in Fredericksburg. "As a child we were hauling peaches all day long in the summertime."

Eckhardt says a freeze in late March and a hail storm this month damaged the orchard, leaving little to no peach crop. Typically this time of year, growers expect to find peaches every 10-15 inches. This year, however, one of her good trees only carries a few.

The worst damage might be down the road just east of town where a hail storm Thursday night ripped a porch apart and pieces of a tin roof still sit across the street in a field.

Just beyond that field Is the Engel Orchard.

"I love peaches," said grower Paul Engel. "I was born in the peach orchard."

Engel says the storm destroyed part of his orchard. Trees were stripped of their leaves, branches scarred by hail, even the remaining peaches have dents.

"I've been around peaches all my life and I"ve never seen anything remotely like this," Engel said.

He claims the lack of local peaches could drive up the price for consumers -- that is, if there are any to sell.

"It just gets harder every year," Engel said. "There just won't be local fruit at the store."

The farmers will rely on other fruits and vegetables for their bottom line this year. But they still have hope for the famous Hill Country peaches.

"Optimism is the key to farming," Eckhardt said.

Eckhardt said they've already been battling the drought in Central Texas, and this break might be just what they need.

"This is an opportunity to get our tree health back," she explained.

And she'll keep an eye out for any peaches.

"If we find some we might make a cobbler," she said.


News Video
More Video