Interview With the Owner of Efurd Orchards
Interview With the Owner of Efurd Orchards
Efurd Orchards is the largest orchard (that we know of) in our part of Texas. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the owners and a managing employee of the orchards and ask them some questions about their operation. I thought it might be of interest to our readers.
I’ve bought fresh peaches from Efurd’s for years and I’ve always admired their nicely-pruned, well-kept rows of trees, and impressive frost fans.
So here is my interview with one of the owners, Amy Efurd, and an employee of Efurd Orchards in Pittsburg, TX.
Question: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me! I know this is a busy time of year. So how many years have you been in the orchard business?
Answer: My in-laws started with peach trees in 1972. My husband and I got married in 1990 and we started to work in the business then.
Q: How many acres do you have in fruit trees or other plants?
A: We have right at 150 acres. We just purchased some more land to expand the orchard.
Q: Awesome. What types and varieties of trees and plants do you grow?
A: We try a lot of different things. Right now, most of the land is in peach trees. We also have some apple trees we planted a couple of years ago, and we grow strawberries, blackberries, plums, persimmons, and blueberries too.
Q: And what about the varieties of the fruit trees?
A: Elberta used to be the favorite tree here, just because that’s what everybody wanted. As those trees got older and no longer productive, we’ve moved into Red Skin, Loring, Fire Prince, and Martha Washington. Martha Washington is a white peach. Red Skin and Loring are our most popular peaches and they’re both freestone. We also do some Red Globe. Elberta is still a good tree, we just deal with it much now.
On the apples, we planted Granny Smith and Pink Lady a couple of years ago. We had some Granny Smith this year, but instead of ripening in September or October, when they should ripen, the cooler weather made them ripen earlier. They came off the trees in mid-August this year. We wanted to have them after the peaches were done, but it didn’t happen this year. But customers really loved the apples, even if they were early.
We also grow the Fuyu persimmon, Methley plum, and a few varieties of blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries.
Q: What irrigation method do you use to water all those trees?
A: We used overhead irrigation until about 10 years ago, when we switched to drip irrigation. We’ve been real pleased with that. For us that’s the only way to go.
Back when my in-laws started this, they didn’t irrigate at all and you really didn’t need to. But since we’ve been involved, we’ve put irrigation in everywhere and I think it’s really helped. It helped us get through that drought. We know of another orchard that put in several acres with no irrigation and this year they’ve been fine. But the rain doesn’t always fall when you need it. This year was a good year for rain but there is no telling how it will be next year. The irrigation has really helped us.
Q: What is your water source for the irrigation?
A: We have wells for most of the fields and on a couple of fields we have irrigation ponds.
Q: And how do you fertilize all those acres?
A: Back when we started, we would load a truck up with granular fertilizer and the workers would just sling it out around the trees with coffee cans. Now we use liquid fertilizer injected into the drip irrigation lines. That’s easier and more efficient.
Q: Do you plan everything so that there is fruit in season most of the year? How does that work?
A: We are open to the public at our stand form April to November. We usually have strawberries starting in April, and then we bring some early peaches in late May, and have peaches through the summer, and finish up with apples and persimmons. If we don’t have enough to sell from our farm, we purchase some quality strawberries or something like that from reputable growers in the area.
Q: So do you just sell to the public? Or wholesale? Or direct to supermarkets?
A: The majority of our business is to wholesale customers. We take literally thousands of boxes of peaches each year to the Dallas Farmer’s Market where we sell them to wholesalers and distributors. We also purchase watermelons to sell to our customers at the same time.
But we do operate the shed here in Pittsburg most of the year, offering fresh, local produce to local customers. And we have an agreement with local grocery stores that purchase our produce directly.
Q: Very interesting. I just have a couple of other questions. How do you keep so many trees pruned?
A: We have a crew of workers whose job it is to manage the trees. They make sure they are healthy, and they work all winter to prune the trees.
Q: What’s your tree replacement schedule? How do you deal with that?
A: We replace trees as needed. Some of the peaches stop producing as much after just 8 years. And we’ve had some go as long as 20 or 25 years, so it just depends. The one thing about fruit trees over the long term is that you’ve got to let the ground rest. We actually buy more land every so often to grow trees on new ground and let the old ground rest. And we don’t plant the same variety in the same place. We move around what’s planted where, if that makes sense. That’s one reason we’ve gone away from Elberta. They planted so many Elberta back when this started that we’ve gotten away from them, at least for now.
This winter, we are planting 3000 peach trees on some new land we bought. We will also plant some more apples. So we basically just replace the trees as they quit producing well, and we let the land rest every so often so that after a few years we can plant there again, after the land recovers. Fruit trees take a lot from the soil.
Q: Last question: what about frosts? East Texas and much of the South deals with late frost that damage fruit. With so many trees, how do you deal with that?
A: We have frost fans on our biggest fields. On nights where there’s going to be a frost, we can fire those things up and they’ll turn and produce a wind in the field. If it’s not a hard freeze, that wind will usually keep the peaches from being killed by the frost. The wind keeps the frost from forming on the blooms or young peaches. It’s not worth losing a crop over just a few degrees of temperature. But if it’s a hard, cold freeze, there’s really nothing we can do.
Q: Awesome! Thanks for your time. I know y’all are busy!
A: No problem! Any time.