South Texas farmers face production woes amid drought, extreme temperatures

Jenschke Orchards in Fredericksburg not offering peach picking due to low production

Fredericksburg, TEXASJenschke Orchards was established more than 60 years ago with a couple hundred peach trees.

“My dad planted the first peach orchard in 1961,” Travis Jenschke said. Jenschke now runs Jenschke Orchards with the help of his son, daughter-in-law and about 10 other employees.

“We are up to 5,000 trees now, and we’re planting more,” Jenschke said. “We’ve seen a lot of hail, we’ve seen a lot of drought, which is what we’re experiencing right now.”

This year, Jenschke said, is shaping up to be similar to 2011.

“We had (about) 10 inches of rain all year (in 2011). Right now we’re in the middle of June, (and) we’ve had five and a half inches here,” Jenschke said.

The lack of rain means farmers are irrigating their fields around the clock. For weeks, the Jenschkes have resourced their well to water row by row for 24 hours.

“This intense heat constantly, I think, (is) keeping the peaches small and they’re not ripening either,” Jenschke said. “We, we water constantly, and I think it helps. But a two-inch rain would make a lot of difference right now, which is not going to happen according to the long-range forecast.”

Skipping a day of irrigation during a drought could be detrimental to any farmer. The dire situation has led other farmers to completely shut down. KSAT 12 reached out to Ernst Market, a family business of 65 years run by Kermit Ernst and his wife. Over the phone, Ernst said the dry conditions have led to low product and ultimately the closure of his business for the season.

Although a tough situation for Jenschke Orchards, in recent years they added a retail store, which helps generate more consistent income, especially as they battle inflation.

“I think right now everything is going up,” Lindsey said. “So, you’re going to see (a price increase on our produce) not just because of the crop size, but, you know, fertilizer is a lot more expensive. You know, we make our peach boxes (and) (cost for) boxes have increased. I mean, everything that we use here on the farm to provide fruit has gone up.”

Which is why this year, they’re focused on their sales inside the store and putting a pause on self-peach-picking for the season. It has also helped balance a supply of peaches and avoid being wiped out in one weekend.

“(Our store is) what keeps us going,” Lindsey Jenschke said. Lindsey is the retail manager at Jenschke Orchards. “We have people depending on us. So, we choose that then, we will do pick-your-own if we can.”

Now, the focus remains on making it through the drought and preparing for the fall with their pumpkin patch.

“We’ll live through it,” Travis said.

Jenschke Orchards is located at 8381 US Highway 290 East, next to Trade Days. It’s about seven miles east of Fredericksburg, seven miles west of Stonewall.

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About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.