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2020 Peaches In Hindsight

2020 Peaches In Hindsight

I’m sitting here trying to write this summary of the 2020 peach season and I’ve having a really hard time deciding where to even start. I’m certain that 2020 will always be marked as a year that was quite chaotic and confusing for all of us, but somehow in the middle of all the crazy that’s been going on we managed to irk out our first ever year of selling peaches. And it was a GREAT year.

How Do You Sell Peaches?

When we planted the first peach trees in 2016, we always imagined that we would simply sell from the roadside of 281. The traffic count there is really high and it provides good visibility of the orchard. In our heads it seemed simple. In practice it proved out to be far more than we would have ever guessed.

In the weeks leading up to the first variety coming ripe, we planned out all the logistics. How to take payment, how to harvest, process, display, and package the fruit. Seemingly every aspect possible we planned out in great detail. It only took the first day to figure out we were already in way over our heads and so much of our planning fell apart.

Without advertising, customers lined the roadside to come buy peaches.

On The Roadside?

Foolishly we thought that selling peaches would be a simple matter of just sitting on the side of the road, sipping iced tea, and watching the world drive by. We arranged for a couple family members and a couple of our kiddos to help pick peaches. It didn’t take more than an hour to figure out we had no idea what we were doing.

The sheer demand alone was absolutely overwhelming. We couldn’t pick peaches fast enough. We were bringing crate after crate of peaches out of the orchard only to find that everything we had brought out the last trip had already sold out. We started early in the morning that first day and we ran nonstop until about 6pm before calling it quits. We didn’t run out of fruit, we simply ran all of the help who volunteered to come out until they were run ragged and exhausted.

After only 2 days of selling from the roadside of Hwy 281, we went through 130 trees worth of peaches. Thankfully the next variety wouldn’t be ripe for another 3 weeks so it gave us time to adjust and plan for the next harvest. It allowed us to take everything we had learned and develop a plan on how to do it better. There were so many ways we could run things better and we wanted to take advantage of every single one of them.

Without the “Sold Out” sign we would have a half dozen folks every day driving down to find someone to ask about peaches. It quickly became an almost permanent installation because demand was so high.

At The Back?

A couple days after our first peach sale we were contacted by the local TXDOT guys. They quickly reaffirmed something we already knew. The side of a 70mph road isn’t a safe place for a huge mass of people. We had actually spoken with the TXDOT guys a week before our first harvest and sale because we wanted their input. I think they had the same expectation that we foolishly went into it with. “Surely it would just be a slow trickle of people, right?” Yeah, we were collectively wrong and they were kind enough to consult with us again on how to adjust to do it safely.

Local TXDOT consulted with us on how to sell safely.

In the end we realized that cars would have to enter and exit the property via the driveway. Anything else was simply too dangerous and resulted in a number of what (we felt like) were close calls due to the high speed passing traffic.

Instead we let folks know a day ahead of time that we would be selling peaches at the back of the property. Despite the fact that customers had to drive all the way down our half mile driveway to even find us, we were still covered up with more customers than we knew how to handle.

Customers were so gracious despite having to wait upwards of 45 minutes at times.

We didn’t go into it blindly. We had spent the entire previous day picking and processing peaches so that we had a walk-in cooler packed full of peaches ready to sell by daybreak. Even with an entire day of preparation we weren’t fast enough to keep the line down.

Every time we tried this we were completely sold out within 1-2 hours. It was very successful and significantly safer than the roadside of Highway 281. Still, we need to do better so that we can serve folks faster next year.

On The Internet

Easily the most surprising method of selling peaches came when we thought we didn’t have enough fruit to support a large crowd. Rather than have customers wait in line while we potentially ran out of ripe peaches, we put together a website and placed a limited amount of inventory on there. A single text announcement was sent and within 20-30 minutes every single peach was sold. Customers simply bought them off the website and then drove out and pickup their already reserved peaches. We would have their order ready and waiting with their name it. It worked so well that we may make this our primary means of selling peaches next year. The regular customers were able to buy their fruit from the comfort of home and just drive out to grab them when it was convenient. The lines were short, we could afford to chat with customers for a while, and chaos overall was dramatically reduced.

“The Fridge”. We’d just leave it outside the farm shed overnight and in the morning customer’s orders had magically been picked up! Some of ya’ll must have some serious midnight hankering for cobbler or something.

Pick Your Own

We told so many customers this year that we weren’t going to do “pick-your-own” peaches. I actually felt guilty when we came to the end of the year and realized that we could after all!

We love our neighbors and we want to be good stewards of our shared proximity to each other. It wouldn’t be fair to have masses of unfamiliar folks wandering around right on the other side of the fence from their back porch. We picked all the peaches on the trees near their houses ourselves and with help that we know and trust to be polite and courteous. That is until it came to the end of year and a perfect storm of opportunity brewed that made a pick your own possible.

The last trees to ripen are at the front of the property where they’re out of sight and proximity from the neighbors homes. These trees have always been weaker and less productive, so when the peaches on them started to ripen we were asking ourselves how on earth we could make the effort of picking so few peaches worthwhile.

It simply wouldn’t make sense for us to hustle out there with a crew to pick only a few crates of peaches ….. it would however make a great opportunity for folks who wanted to come out and get their own peaches.

It. Went. So. Well.

This picture makes my heart so happy. He proposed to her that morning while picking peaches!
Can you possibly get any more romantic than that?!
These moments needed to happen. The year would have been incomplete without them.
The world NEEDS more things to smile about right now but we didn’t realize how much pick-your-own would mean to some of you guys.

I know that “pick-your-own” peaches will never be the normal for us where the orchard is currently growing, but I’m SO looking forward to this time of the year again in 2021. The smiles, the joy, the down-to-earth conversations with folks, the hunt for the perfect peach … I think we thrive most when we get to share these things with you guys. It was such a wonderful way to close out the 2020 peach season.

Thank You

There is so much more to say about the 2020 peach season. There is so much good wrapped up in those few months. From the shower of handcrafted creations ya’ll shared with us, to the relationships that were formed through the windows of your cars as you came by to share a smile that couldn’t be hidden behind the mask you were wearing on your face. We are leaving the 2020 peach season exhausted and yet so eager to see you guys again next summer.

Thank you guys. For everything. It’s so much …. thank you.

If You Missed Us

Demand was so high that we would sell out far too quickly on most days to have regular operating hours. Instead most of our customers were alerted via a text message announcement when peaches were made available. If you’d like to know when the 2021 crop is ready, add yourself to that text message group!

Send a text message to:
81010

That says:

@stxpeaches

It’s a little odd, but it uses the same Remind system the local school uses. It may ask if you’re a parent, teacher, student. You can answer however you’d like. Either way it works great for letting people know when the peaches are ripe!

Graham

Trees are awesome. In a world where everything is dominated by instant gratification, working with a tree that must be nurtured for years forces you to slow down and appreciate the value of hard work.

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