DICKINSON — Peach season is past at Janet and Jim Guidry’s orchard in Dickinson, but they have another profitable fruit in the offing — blackberries.
The part-time farmers planted some 40 bushes three years ago and have seen such success that they’re adding 70 more. This year, they’ll sell an estimated 300 pounds through the end of the season in August.
When the new plants are in full production in a year or two, the farm will produce more than 1,000 pounds. That’s enough to start marketing to area restaurants and markets.
“They’re plump; they’re low acid and they’re very sweet,” said Guidry, a manager at an engineering firm. His wife, Janet, is a pharmacist.
The couple has lived on the 13-acre farm for 15 years now. Three years ago, they started up the Humble Camp Peach Farm, an all-natural operation.
“We put in 300 peach trees and that has been wildly successful, much more than we ever expected,” Guidry said.
Blackberries were a logical addition to the crop plan, with a longer summer season than peaches.
“The soil and the weather here in Galveston County is very conducive to blackberries,” said Guidry, whose interest in farming dates back to his days in the Texas City High School Future Farmers of America.
His strategy will probably pay off.
“On a small scale, you can make money,” said Larry A. Stein, associate department head for extension horticulture and extension horticulturists at Texas A&M University in Uvalde.
“The challenge is, you can get so big that you can’t get them harvested, because it’s 100 percent labor to pick them,” he said.
Some farms solve that problem with a pick-your-own approach. Fruits ‘n Such Orchard, a small, family-owned operation in Dickinson, offers pick-your-own blackberries.
They brag on this year’s crop — berries so plump that co-owner Renee’ Hillman posted a picture of two quarters measuring the height of a bunch, captioned, “The biggest blackberries I’ve ever seen.”
Blackberries have long flourished here.
“Cultivated blackberries have genetic ties (through breeding efforts) to southern dewberries that grow native in coastal Texas,” said Monte Nesbitt, an extension program specialist in fruit crops.
The berries are good at adapting to the various soil types and chemistries in this region.
“Blackberries have their own cultural and pest challenges, but can be grown successfully if selecting the right varieties,” he said.
Guidry selected the thornless Ouachita plant, which grows at about waist level so berries are easy to pick. He puts two cups of berries in a sack, enough for a cobbler, and transports the packages in ice chests to the weekly Galveston’s Own Farmers Market on Sundays in downtown Galveston.
Sales help the Humble Camp Peach Farm break even, although the Guidrys count many non-monetary blessings as profit.
“We do this because it’s nourishing to our souls, not only to be out there in nature, but to see the happiness it brings to people to have fresh fruit,” Guidry said.
As for the future bottom line of the operation, Guidry said he hopes to eventually fund his retirement. He is adding more peach trees and eyeing adding blueberries to the orchard operation.
“It’s kind of a hobby, but also has the ability to earn us a living,” Guidry said. “We can make enough money to be able to do that if things keep going well, and the rain keeps falling and the sun keeps shining.”
Blackberries crop guide
Estimated cost: $1,500 per acre establishment; $750 annual operating; two years to first harvest
Market outlets: Local sales, pick-your-own, farmers markets, roadside
Profit potential: Up to $4,000 per acre
Labor requirements: Low, but high at harvest
Equipment requirements: Tractor, shredder, herbicide sprayer, trailer
Soil requirements: Neutral to acid, sandy
Water requirements: 1 inch per week
Minimum size: 0.25 acre
Pests: thrips, double blossom, stink bugs and virus diseases
(SOURCE: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension)
Area farms marketing blackberries
Fruits ‘n Such Orchard, a small, family-owned, pick-your-own orchard at 6309 Ave. U, Dickinson, is open every evening this week from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Check its Facebook page for updates on what’s available: www.facebook.com and type in “Fruits ‘n Such Orchard,” or call 832-443-6733
Humble Camp Peach Farm, 5602 Humble Camp Road in Dickinson, sells blackberries at Galveston’s Own Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings. Visit its Facebook page for updates: www.facebook.com and type in “Humble Camp Peach Farm.” The farm also has bales of native grass hay for sale, mostly Bahia. For information, call , 281-802-2834.
Galveston’s Own Farmers Market offers fresh produce, including blackberries, every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 2508 Postoffice, Galveston. Check the Facebook page for updates: www.facebook.com and type in “Galveston’s Own Farmers Market.”
For information on berry farming, check the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension fact sheets listed at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/fruit-nut and small acreage crop guides at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/smallacreage/crops-guides/fruits-nuts.
Take a handful of fresh blackberries and crush them, then run them through a strainer and pour the juice into a bottle of water. It adds just the right amount of flavor and not too much sweetness.
(SOURCE: Jim and Janet Guidry of Humble Camp Peach Farm)