Crops about 2 weeks ahead of schedule

Published 3:01 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Chill hours are adequate and local produce is on schedule to be ready two to two and a half weeks ahead of schedule, Bobby Boozer of Boozer Farms in Thorsby told the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce on March 6.

“Blueberries will start blooming soon,” Boozer said. “Blackberries are in full bloom. Peaches and the strawberries are in bloom with green fruit that I am expecting to start harvesting about two weeks ahead of time.”

Boozer retired from working at the Chilton Research and Extension Center to work for his daughter, Boozer Farms owner Taylor Hatchett.

“I have been through a lot of seasons here,” Boozer said, recounting sleepless nights as he checked in with farmers trying to keep their peach trees warm during a late frost.

Hatchett said she started selling Chilton County farmer’s peaches in Auburn her first summer in college.

“I just fell in love with it, and I did that for a couple of years,” Hatchett said.

With her father’s experience growing peaches, she wanted to begin growing peaches to sell rather than simply selling those from other orchards.

The orchard was planted, and the work began. Hatchett said she had her father would work in the orchard before and after her office job in Pelham.

Later, Joe Mims talked to Hatchett about the possibility of taking over his sod farm. Hatchett was excited at the prospect and, after consulting her husband and father, agreed to do it.

She was still working three days a week at her office job.

“Mr. Joe started to teach me all that I didn’t know about farming,” Hatchett said. “Because you can sit in a college class all day long and there is so much that they can never teach you or show you.”

Six months later, she left her office job and became a full-time farmer.

“I started full-time in 2012,” Hatchett said. “Dad had 28 years in, and I was able to convince him to retire and join me.”

Being diversified is important to keeping the farm strong. The farm grows a variety of fruits and vegetables, so there will always be a crop of something available.

Hatchett said the 2017 winter season was the warmest he could remember, and it hurt the peach crop.

“Between three freeze events and lack of chilling, we had a pretty miserable peach crop,” Boozer said. “But, many of the other crops did well, and for those that diversified they came through OK.”

This year has been a much better weather situation for the developing peach crop, so far.

Boozer said by Feb. 15 the trees at Boozer Farms already had enough chill hours, hours of weather below 45 degrees, for the peaches to grow properly.

Watching the temperature is crucial for other crops. Boozer said the farm has already made preparations for protecting the strawberry and blueberry plants if there is another cold snap.

Community members can experience Boozer Farms produce directly from the farm through the Community Supported Agriculture program. Community members buy a share in the crop and receive weekly boxes or produce throughout the season.