Ham Peach Orchards is one of only three sites in the state where world-renowned Texas A&M peach breeder Dr. David Byrne tests his peach varieties. Dale Ham, owner of Ham Orchards, said he considers it a privilege to be among the handful of Texas growers who benefit from Byrne’s expertise.
“The reason we let him use our farm is if we find an outstanding peach in the first or second trial and it works real well, we are allowed to bud that variety and it may be 10 or 12 years before any other orchard can get it,” Ham said.
However, perfecting a variety is a long and labor-intensive process. It often takes many years before Byrne gives a peach his stamp of approval and patents it.
“He released about 15 varieties last year and is releasing another 15 this year,” Ham said.
Although Byrne is the only peach breeder in the state, he shares his expertise with growers worldwide, traveling to Brazil, China and other locations to educate growers, test varieties which are best suited to their climates and to share bud wood with them.
Even within the state, varieties grown at different test sites vary according to differences in climates.
“For example, the test site in South Texas grows lower chill peaches that we can’t grow,” Ham said.
The longstanding affiliation between Ham Orchards and the state’s only peach breeder allows the Ham family the opportunity to share a wide variety of quality peaches with their customers.
With Byrne nearing retirement, Ham continues to work closely with him to bring the orchards’ customers hundreds of varieties of peaches that are undoubtedly the cream of the crop.
When pressed for his favorite, Ham simply couldn’t choose.
“They’re all good,” he said with a grin.