Fruits of labor
Peach orchard delivers large bounty year after year on Ranchero Road
Peach orchard owner Ken Decker, 73, sells peaches on Ranchero Road in Oak Hills and time is almost up for people to enjoy the daily picked sweet fruit.
“Day by day, depending on how good the crop is, I leave them on the bushes as long as I can,” Decker said, with the availability of the peaches varying and only for sale in October. Each row of peaches takes an hour per person to harvest with about 22 bushes in 46 rows, Decker said.
La Mirada residents Joy and Scott Flasher spend weekends in Oak Hills and returned for more after buying peaches a couple weeks ago.
“Even the ones that were a little crisp had this great peach flavor, a full flavor,” Joy Flasher said who ate the peaches daily. “Juicy even when ripened up more still. Just can’t explain it — so fresh.”
“I think it’s great, anything homegrown is better than store bought,” said first-time customer Tom Seeling with wife, Carolyn Seelig. “These taste a thousand times better,” he said after sampling the fruit.
“I like it — reminds you of what home should be,” Carolyn Seelig said. “Stop and get what you need and go on your way.”
Initially interested in planting pistachios, Christmas trees or apples, Decker said one-time Pilgrim Peach Orchard owner Nancy advertised that planting 250 peach bushes could bring in extra income.
“I thought, ‘Wow, if you can make money on that many, I want to put more,’ and planted four times that,” Decker said.
Decker planted about 1,000 9-foot-tall Pilgrim Peach bushes on the 3-acre property 13 years ago and has sold peaches for 11 years now.
“His hobby became more than a hobby,” said wife Connie Decker, with his first crop harvested the year before they got married in 2003. “I didn’t know I would have all that work.”
One of the biggest costs involved is water, according to Ken Decker, with animals like squirrels, birds and gophers a challenge because they chew not only on the bushes but also on the watering system.
A full-time truck driver for 42 years, Ken Decker isn’t always home to tend to the orchard, he said. Connie Decker appreciates her “rock” — friend Robin Stowe who has always been there to help fertilize and fix water drip leaks, among other tasks, she said.
“Never been much of a peach person,” said Susan Barber, who came from New Hampshire to help with the harvest. “I’m from New England, I’m an apple person.” She adds now that she’s “spoiled” — buying a peach from a store will never happen again.
For four years, husband and wife Ed and Tina Lueken have bought the fruit. “(We) get them every year — every year we’re here to enjoy them, freeze them and make peach cobbler,” Tina Lueken said, adding that the price is a great deal and organic peaches aren’t available in stores.
“(Before) to me a peach was a peach, no big deal,” Connie Decker said. “These are a very big deal — they would win anyone over.”
“People ask, ‘Why do you do it?’ Well, for the love of doing it — that’s about what it is,” Ken Decker said. “The love of working outside.”
Baskets of peaches are sold at about $1 a pound and the orchard is located at 13554 Ranchero Road between Maple and Escondido streets.