Peach perfect: Ripe fruit aplenty for annual festival

Ethan Riley, 16, arranges peaches at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming on Wednesday.

Ethan Riley, 16, arranges peaches at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Throughout the summer harvest, Fifer Orchards has found itself thankful for the healthy crops it turned out — especially the bountiful peach harvest which was threatened by an unusually cold spring.

Early spring brought colder than average temperatures with nights dipping into the mid-20s — a concern for all crops, but especially peaches which are unlikely to recover from multiple frosts.

Peaches still on the tree at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming on Wednesday.

Peaches still on the tree at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming on Wednesday.

“We’re seeing very good quality and larger sized peaches than normal,” said Mike Fennemore, a fourth-generation farmer at Fifer Orchards. “The peach crop is smaller than average. However, we’ve been blessed with plenty of peaches for our local community to enjoy.”

This is the weekend when the town of Wyoming celebrates its favorite fruit with the annual Peach Festival.

The festivities begin at 9 a.m. with the parade starting at Fifer Middle School and continuing along Camden-Wyoming Avenue.

The day will be filled with live music, entertainment, craft and food vendors, children’s activities, peach dessert contest and more.

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This year’s Customer Appreciation Day at Fifer’s, normally held the same day as the Peach Festival, will be held a week later due to traffic and safety concerns.

Frosty reception

Customers leave with their purchases at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming on Wednesday.

Customers leave with their purchases at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming on Wednesday.

It was a Wednesday night in early April when the forecast was looking particularly grim that Mr. Fennemore and other Fifer’s farmers stayed up all night, keeping a close eye on the thermometer.

When temperatures neared freezing, Mr. Fennemore and his fellow Fifer farmers decided frost control needed to be employed. Their method for frost control involved using a helicopter to stir up still air and to push warm air down to the trees.

Stirring up the air is important because still air is much more likely to allow for frost than wind but generating warm air is a lot less reliable.

Generating warm air relies on the formation of a temperature inversion layer. Typically, air temperature decreases as elevation increases but in the case of temperature inversion, there is warmer air above the cold air.

The helicopter propellers are able to push down the warm air from the inversion layer raising the ground temperature by about three degrees. It may seem like a small impact, but three degrees can be the difference between a healthy tree and a damaged one.

With the frost control, the orchard was able to make it through with only minimal loss of its 35 peach varieties on 175 acres.

Peach varieties currently being harvested are Flamin’ Fury, Starfire, Bounty, Coral Star, Sugar Giant and Summer Pearl are coming off the trees very sweet and juicy due to the high temperatures the fruit have endured over the past several weeks.

Other major downstate peach producers like T.S. Smith and Sons of Bridgeville lost a large portion of their peaches due to the frost.

“We only have about 30 to 40 percent of our average yield,” said Charlie Smith, co-owner of T.S. Smith and Sons. “But that’s farming.”
There is a silver lining to the loss at the farm — bigger, juicer peaches.

Since each tree had fewer peaches to support this year, each peach that survived got more water and nutrients than usual.

“What we do have, they’re beautiful,” Mr. Smith said of their 30 peach varieties on 60 acres.

Peach harvesting started in late June and will continue daily until the beginning of September.

Customer Appreciation Day

Fifer’s 36th annual Customer Appreciation Day on Aug. 13 will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at its location at 1919 Allabands Mill Road in Wyoming.

At Customer Appreciation Day, all attendees will be rewarded for their loyal patronage with a free peach ice cream cone blended by Woodside Farm Creamery and served up by local 4-H and FFA chapters.

Live music will be ongoing throughout the day along with free activities for kids and families like hayrides, face painting and a petting zoo.

Food vendors will also be on site serving food from gourmet sandwiches to old fashioned funnel cake.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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