Peach Perseverance

July 11, 1995|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

If you buy local peaches from the grocery store or a roadside stand in Anne Arundel County, chances are Ridgely Boyer grew them.

Mr. Boyer is one of the county's remaining peach farmers. His 20-acre orchard on Severn Road accounts for nearly half of the county's total peach acreage, according to the Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service.

Last week, the 73-year-old farmer began his 28th harvest of peaches, starting with the plucking of the Candor yellow peach. Through Labor Day crews will pick a new variety of peaches every week. Yesterday, farm hands began picking the Earli-Red Free peach.

"Looks like a real good harvest," Mr. Boyer said. "Peaches like dry weather -- hot season makes them sweet."

Mr. Boyer is one of only a few peach farmers in the county. At one time, there were as many as 40 orchards, but most of them were wiped out by a string of frosts in the 1950s and 1960s. Some farmers turned to different crops, while others sold out to developers.

When Mr. Boyer planted 1,000 peach trees in 1963, he says he was the only one in the county.

His perseverance paid off, and today he has the corner on the local peach market.

"He's always been there," said Dave Murphy, a produce manager for Pasadena's Lauer's Super Thrift, where Boyer peaches have been sold for 15 years. "He's got the best peaches in the neighborhood."

When the harvest peaks this month, Mr. Murphy will send crews to pick up bushels of fresh peaches from the farm every morning, then hang up signs at the stores: "Local Peaches from Boyer Farms."

Several times a week, Mr. Boyer checks his 2,000 peach trees while his wife, Bernice, 67, manages the farm's books. Since 1983, his son Ridgely Jr., 42, and Ridgely Jr.'s wife, Catherine, 42; his daughter Brenda Gibson, 41, and her husband Greg, 46, have overseen the farm's daily operation.

Every morning, Monday through Saturday, workers pick the peaches off 6-foot-tall trees. In the first three weeks of the harvest, only two or three people are needed to collect about 125 half bushels in a day.

When the days usually get hotter in late July and August, the peaches ripen faster, and six people are needed to gather the fruit.

The peaches then are taken to or collected by roadside produce stands such as George's in Crofton, Holt's in Pasadena and Produce Galore in Columbia. In August, the Boyers supply peaches to local churches for festivals.

The Boyers also have their own whitewashed wooden stand in front of Mr. Boyer's farmhouse. The stand is open seven days a week from the Fourth of July through Labor Day and also sells tomatoes, peppers and squash that are grown on the Boyer Farm.

"Their produce is terrific," said Hanover resident Joan Spencer, 50, who bought bagfuls of corn, tomatoes and peaches. She has been a customer for 15 years. "It's the best in the area."

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