Produce Grower Looks Forward to Better Season
Dale Jefferies is spending a lot of this week in his orchard just north of Springfield. He's pruning and trimming the peach trees, which actually reduces how many will grow.
"The ones that show the little growth are the flower buds," Jeffries said. "There's a double there, two, four, six, eight, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, like 25 flowers on that one branch. The framework of the tree wouldn't support that kind of a crop. And to make a nice-sized peach, ideally, the peaches should be about 9 inches apart."
That's just part of what makes these peaches stand out from their competition flown in from elsewhere.
"They can try all they want to make a decent peach in California," Jefferies said. "But they can't beat anything that you let ripen on the trees."
This time of year means he's closer to being able to open his store and get some income rolling back in.
"Nothing going on now, and it's tougher since we had a blank last year," Jefferies said. "We didn't have any. The apples and peaches both froze, the biggest part of the strawberries, and no blueberries. Last year was a tough one."
He's hoping 2013 will be a little better on the trees.
"That should've been only a once in a lifetime," Jefferies said. "I think, I hope."
So far, the asparagus hasn't poked out yet, and the blueberry bushes aren't taking off yet, but things are looking up.
"We're off to a good start," Jeffries said. "There's a big bloom on. That doesn't necessarily mean there's a big crop, just a good start. We're still at least 10 days from having any amount of asparagus. The rhubarb isn't even showing yet, you can't see any indication of growth, but I think when it does, when the weather does break, it'll be here all at one time."
That does mean plenty of work pruning. Luckily, he's got a hydro ladder, and he doesn't know what he would do without it.
"It'd be all ladder work," Jefferies said. "If I didn't have that one I'd find another one."
Reporting in Sangamon County, Mike Brooks, ABC NewsChannel 20.