by Jennifer Denlinger
Florida peaches are making a name for themselves as u-pick peach farms spring up throughout the countryside. Florida’s peach industry began with the research of the University of Florida’s agriculture research team, which developed several varieties of peaches requiring a smaller amount of “chill hours” than peaches that come from our neighbors to the north.
New opportunities in peach growing have come to the rescue of many citrus farmers who suffered the devastating effects of citrus greening and freezes early in the decade. Ken and Alise Edison have converted eight acres of their commercial orange grove just 15 minutes east of St. Cloud to create Deer Park Peaches, which is living proof that dreams can pay off.
Edible Orlando: What do you like about running a family farm?
Ken Edison: Farming and agriculture keeps me busy. Farming is in my family. My grandparents were farmers in Georgia.
Alise Edison: This lifestyle is very genuine. You understand the land and nature and the process of life. Sometimes being “out in the country” isolates you some, but having the u-pick portion of the business helps fulfill some social needs.
EO: What are some of the challenges you face in the Florida ag industry?
AE: Overall, the distribution channels for getting Florida peaches to market is still a challenge. However, Florida has found a niche for peaches between the South American crop and the Georgia harvest. Besides u-pick, you can find our peaches in several private grocers and at the Osceola County Grown farmer’s market.
KE: Keeping the peach trees pruned in the right pattern to promote healthy fruit is very labor intensive, along with manually thinning the early fruit in order to produce larger peaches.. This higher labor cost is directly reflected in the price of fruit.
EO: How do you maintain a sustainable operation?
AE: We have interdependency between our crops and animals. The animals are fed the remnants of produce. We are also experimenting with a small aquaponic system using fish as part of the plant growing process.
Starting April 14, u-pick peaches are available for $3 per pound from 10am to 2pm on Saturdays and from noon to 3pm on Sundays. Check the farm’s Facebook page for updates. Hydroponically grown vegetables, farm fresh eggs, boiled peanuts and u-pick blueberries (in season) are also available. Deer Park Peaches, 6900 Kempfer Road, St. Cloud.