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Florida, a state famous for citrus, has farmer now promoting peach industry

A look at Florida's premier grower of peaches
Florida peaches
Posted at 9:12 PM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-10 22:12:59-04

Citrus is famous in Florida, but there's another fruit growers want the country to know about: Peaches.

Where the pavement ends and the orchard begins, and farmer Adrian Morales says he has found his calling.

"We enjoy what we do every day," he said.

About six years ago, Morales began growing peaches.

"Come wintertime, we have to hand prune every single individual tree here on the farm," he said.

University of Florida scientists figured out how to grow them here. It was up to people like Morales to figure out how to market them.

"Peaches are a little bit smaller in size, so people are a kind of timid, so the first thing you have to do is explain to them that the flavor profile is unlike anything you've ever had in your life," Morales said.

When he started, several area school districts began incorporating the smaller Florida peach in their lunch programs.

"Because those kids are just going to love that peach and go home and tell their parents about it, and that's where the education starts," Morales said.

Adrian Morales proudly stands next to peach trees
Adrian Morales proudly stands next to his peach trees in St. Lucie County.

But after that initial success with the school districts, Mother Nature had other plans. Hurricane Irma devastated the crops in 2017.

"You can just imagine the amount of water that was just sitting here from tree trunk to tree trunk," Morales recalled.

It's taken Morales nearly five years to get back on his feet.

"We did lose 40 acres worth of trees, about 4,600 trees, and it hurt," he said.

Like citrus, peaches need some cool temperatures for their trees to flourish, called "chill hours," when the thermometer dips below 55 degrees.

"We've come to the realization that these trees are very, very temperamental," Morales said.

Florida Peechy's grown on Treasure Coast
Florida Peechy's are grown by the Treasure Coast Peach Company.

The growing schedule allows Florida Peechy's to be the only fresh peach around in March, April and May. With this year's harvest winding down, Morales is looking ahead.

His Treasure Coast Peach Company has acquired 80 acres in Indian River County to add to the 140 acres in St. Lucie County.

"I was led to grow Florida peaches," Morales said.

This story was originally published by Jon Shainman of WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida.