PEACH FORECAST BOUNTIFUL
AT TOLAR FARM
by Pete Kendall
Hood County News – April 12, 2004
Oleo Farm in Tolar – “Just a Cheap Spread”
TOLAR – So far, so good at picturesque Oleo Farm.
The peach trees have bloomed and the tiny globes sprouted. It remains to be seen exactly how many of the juicy treats will survive to plucking season this summer.
“God and nature determine that,” Jim Smith said.
Smith knows something about both.
Oleo co-proprietor along with wife Donna, Smith is a semi-retired hospital chaplain who grew up on a Rio Grande Valley farm.
Tolar isn’t the Valley, but there’s one similarity … dirt.
“With today’s fertilizers and mulches, you can do just about anything with soil,” he said.
The Smiths purchased their Colony Road property in 1996 and planted their first peach trees in 1997.
Of the present 145, approximately 80 in the main orchard are fruit-bearing. By necessity, the trees are hardy. This is Texas.
“We had 120 trees originally,” Smith said. “The drought and grasshoppers ate us up. We put net, like from a formal dress, over all the trees for two seasons to keep them from being totally destroyed.”
Oleo has been blessed in recent years.
“We had a super peach crop last year while Weatherford and Fredericksburg were having trouble with the weather,” Smith said. “God put a cloud over us one Sunday morning when it was supposed to freeze.
“We’re loaded with a lot of fruit again this year. We’ll know for sure what we have June 10th when we bite into that first peach.”
At Oleo, that would be the Sentinel. Unless you count the apricot, which isn’t a peach but is almost as tasty in a fried pie.
“The season starts with apricots from the end of May till June 10th,” Smith said. “Last year, we sold fruit from all nine of the apricot trees. People picked them all in two days.”
The Sentinel is special because it’s the celebratory first peach.
“The first peaches always taste best,” Smith said, chuckling.
Oleo’s peach harvest is staggered intentionally. The longer they have peaches, the longer they get to market them.
“We set out 10 trees of each variety of peach,” Smith said. “The Sentinels come off June 10th and the Harvestors five to 10 days later.
“The Redglobes will be ready around July 4th and the White Melba at about the same time. The Denmans come off July 10th.
“The last peaches will be the Bountys. We’ll have them into August. Of all the peaches, the Bounty is the biggest. It will play out about August 10.”
Smith is partial to the honey-dripping White Melba.
“They’re very sweet and soft. They make the best cobbler and ice cream. You have to be careful you don’t bruise them. Lots of times, they’re difficult to sell in the markets because of that. People have to come pick them.
“Donna likes the Harvester. She thinks it’s better to cook with and for jellies and preserves.”
Even when he resided in the Valley, where everything grows except Igloos, Smith was determined to cultivate peaches someday.
“At that time, nobody had developed a peach that could really produce in the Valley,” he said. “I said, ‘If I ever live north, I’m going to grow peaches.’
“We moved out of the Valley in 1968. I went to school in Lubbock. From there, we went to New Hampshire for five years and Illinois for three.
“We came to Fort Worth in the summer of 1978. I started experimenting with peaches there.”
The name Oleo Farm was a natural to a Valley farm boy.
“When I was a kid on the farm, we always had plenty of butter,” Smith said. “Oleo became popular because it was cheaper. We called it ‘just a cheap spread.’
“When we bought this place, we decided to have a little fun with the name. We called it Oleo because it’s just a cheap spread.”
It’s a little bit of agricultural paradise.
“The soil drains well,” Smith said. “We work compost, mulch, most organic fertilizers, plus lava sand into the soil around the trees.
“And there’s irrigation. It’s a drip system. I grew up with all this.”
Birds exterminate much of the insect population.
“We have two purple martin houses and two poles of gourds for the martins,” Smith said. “That helps a bunch with insects.”
The Smiths will pick fruit to sell to produce stands.
But they’d rather you load up the family, park and pick the peaches yourself.
“We encourage that,” Smith said. “Families have so much fun.”