Chilton County's Peach Season Is Here!


By Heather VacLav

It's the first weekend of peach season, and farmers in Chilton County are busy at work. After a mild winter and spring, Jimmy Durbin, owner of Sunshine and Jim Durbin Farms says it’s been more than 30 years since he’s had a peach crop come in this early.

“We got a little bit more cold weather and we used a compound that helped us satisfy the dormancy of the trees,” Durbin said picking peaches from his trees Saturday afternoon.

Durbin and his team of workers started harvesting Friday morning, and while the crop is about three weeks early, he says the peaches taste just as sweet as normal.

Jim Durbin Farms’ fields stretch across 30 miles of central Alabama. Jimmy Durbin grew up picking peaches and says peach farming is the only life he's ever known and ever wanted.

“I guess I was in the field with my parents when I was 6 years old, 60 years ago, 65 years ago, and I've been here ever since except when I was in the service,” he said.

Over those years, Durbin says he couldn't manage the farms' crops without his dedicated workers. The farm hires seasonal workers from Guatemala and Mexico through a federal H2-A immigration relief program. Many employees have been working for Durbin for decades and made Alabama home.

"He is a good man, [Mr. Durbin] is a good man,” said Abelardo Enriquec, who has worked with his family at Durbin Farms for more than 20 years. “I work for him for a long time, he’s good, good man, Mr. Durbin.”

It’s workers like Enriquec that Jimmy Durbin seeks to hire take care of his fields. “I had 29 more people come in last night and they going to be picking peaches this afternoon, so we feel good right now,” Durbin said, “I'm tired, but we feel good.”

Durbin’s worn hands show more than signs of age, but experience in his fields, inspecting and picking the very peaches he sells to customers.

Even though it is only the second day of harvest, locals aren't wasting any time to bring home the farms' fresh fruit. Durbin and Sunshine Farms sell more than peaches, this time of year strawberries are also in season. More often than not, customers this month will go home with both fresh fruits.

“Well they're big, they're really big,” Brenda Hunt said about the strawberries. She had nearly 10 gallons of strawberries in her trunk and two bushels of peaches in the back seat of her car. “They let you pick what you want, the big ones, the little ones, the bigger ones are good, but I really like the little ones.”

Jimmy Durbin says his farm works with whatever blessings or obstacles Mother Nature throws its way, and for now, he is grateful for a healthy crop. He says now all the farm needs is for the public to drive down County Road 30 and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Workers will be combing the fields for peaches May through September. Durbin Farms says it is packaging and shipping out about 200,000 peaches a day, so people across the South can expect to see this May's peaches available in their local grocery store.

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