Fresh peaches from Cooper Farms Country Store in Fairfield. Photo by John O. Lumpkin

Paper bags, peck-sized boxes, and half-bushels of ripe peaches greet my spouse, Eileen, and me inside Cooper Farms Country Store. Along with shelves lined with peach preserves, salsas, jarred peach slices, spices, and condiments, there are bottles of peach-infused wines along one wall and pies, cobblers, and breads—baked in-house and mostly peach—crowding tables across from the cash registers. Fresh peaches are the store’s bestseller, while soft-serve cups, shakes, and waffle cones of peach ice cream take second place.

We’ve come here in search of Texas peaches, which have been ripe for pickin’ earlier than usual this season. Some years we travel east to Terrell from our suburban Dallas home, sometimes we go west to Parker County. This year, we headed 100 miles south on Interstate 45 to Fairfield (Exit 198) for Cooper’s abundant supply of blond and rose-tinted June Golds, which became available before Memorial Day weekend.

“Everything is slightly ahead of schedule for now,” says Elizabeth Johnson, second-generation operator of the vast orchards and retail outlet her parents established. She and her husband, Brady, are harvesting “crazy amounts every day and the peaches just keep coming and coming—a big, bountiful crop,” she says, then adding a cautionary note: “Of course, it’s not hot yet so check in on our morale when it’s in the 100s every day.”

Peach Festivals

Like peach baking contests, peach ice cream, and fresh peaches? Then check out the annual Stonewall Peach JAMboree, June 20-22, and the Parker County Peach Festival, July 13 in downtown Weatherford. And for a list of all the principal Hill Country peach growers in Texas, go to

Cooper’s 2024 crop assessment is among the most positive of the Texas family peach growers that I contacted. Elsewhere, the strongest yields in three years are reported by Efurd Orchards in Pittsburg in East Texas, Hutton Farms west of Weatherford in North Texas, and at some growers along the Hill Country’s “Peach Alley,” US 290 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg, due to timely moisture and no late frost. Some others suffered setbacks from spring storms but will have ample supplies throughout the season for the same reason.

“Honestly, this is one of the best peach crops we have ever had,” says Brantly Efurd, who has assumed the reins of the family store and orchards from his parents, Greg and Amy. He predicts freestone peach varieties will be available the latter part of June. “That’s what everybody wants,” he says.

Efurd’s managed to dodge the spring hailstorms, but two popular Hill Country orchards weren’t as fortunate. “This year is looking pretty decent, despite the hailstorm we had April 1,” says Kristen Restani at Burg’s Corner in Stonewall. A 50% crop loss isn’t stopping the 80-acre orchard from having enough peaches stocked for customers this summer, she explains. “If it hadn’t been for the hail, we would be looking at a bumper crop this year.”

Nearby, Jamey Vogel says Vogel Orchard suffered the worst hail damage on its crop since 1998, the year he joined parents George and Nelda Vogel to help with the 70-year-old operation. Despite that setback, he tells me this year’s crop “had such a good enough setting” (the sign that blossoms will transition to fruit), there will be a “fair amount” of peaches throughout the season. And, Vogel’s newest orchard plot, planted in virgin soil two years ago, escaped most of the hail and its fruit is being picked in limited quantities. Meanwhile, Nelda, who is 90, is still in the store kitchen cooking peach butter for ice cream with her sister, as shown in a recent Facebook post.

Further west on 290 toward Fredericksburg, Studebaker Farm and Jenschke Orchards are two of the lucky farms that avoided hail. Studebaker started their season with Fire Zest peaches and will have early clingstone varieties like Harvester coming mid-June; coveted freestones Lorings, Red Globe, and Dixieland rolling out in late June and July; and Ouachita Gold available the first two weeks of August. At Jenschke, they’re celebrating the return of the “Pick Your Own” option for peaches, the only local orchard to do so. “We weren’t able to offer that the last two years due to limited harvests,” store manager Lindsey Jenschke says. For a $5 ticket, customers are given a picker’s box and a tractor ride to and from the portion of the 70-year-old orchard where that day’s designated varieties are available at $2.50 per pound, a discount from store pricing. Advance online tickets are required to ensure supply. Like other 290 orchards, Jenschke anticipates freestones later in June through July.

Hail damage wasn’t the only weather-related problem this spring for Texas peach farmers. Ham Orchards in Terrell east of Dallas, which we try to visit annually, was blasted by violent storms the morning after Memorial Day that split and uprooted hundreds of trees and left the farm store shuttered and without power for three days. “This was the worst storm event in 45 years,” says Richard Strange, son-in-law of Ham’s founders and now manager. “We had a huge crop, maybe the best in 20 years. We lost half of it, but we still have more than we have had in the past three or four years.”

After reopening, Strange says they considered themselves fortunate after thinking “the storm might have blown the store away.” Mid-June, they’re selling early freestone varieties, Harvester and Fire Prince. “We aren’t going to run out of peaches,” he says.

On the other side of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is Hutton Farms, whose peaches are available at the farm store off US 190 and at the Weatherford Farmers Market, also operated by the Hutton family. With a good crop this year, owner Gary Hutton says, they’re picking traditional freestones like Red Globe, Loring, Bounty, and July Prince.

Overall, the 2024 volume is so good right now, family-grown Texas peaches are showing up in grocery stores—we spotted the surplus of Cooper Farms’ initial May harvest in the Central Market in Plano. And Cooper has resumed peach truck sales as far south as Conroe, as well as wholesaling to other farm stores and farm markets.

Even so, we prefer visiting in person, where you have an opportunity to meet the families year after year, sample their assortment of peach products, and buy other fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Efurd may deliver its excess to the Dallas Farmers Market, but you would miss plucking zinnia blooms outside its Pittsburg store. Try the new dry or sweet vintages of peach wine (“no grapes added,” they say) at Burg’s Corner. Go to Jenschke’s for the corn maze as well as Pick Your Own.

But, if you are considering extending your peaches-seeking trip, follow the advice of Russell Studebaker: “You should buy your peaches on the last day en route back home,” says the owner of Studebaker’s on 290. “We pick ripe and [customers] will put them in the trunk and then go shopping, That can cook the peaches right there.”

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