Hipp brothers offer peaches aplenty

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Harry Hipp isnít the type to brag, but ask him about his peach crop and he doesnít hold back.
ěTheyíre loaded this year,î he said. ěWeíve got some nice ones.î
Harry and his brothers ó John and George ó raise about 2 acres of peach trees on Woodleaf Road near its intersection with Jake Alexander Boulevard. Totaled, they tend roughly 400 trees.
The brothers range in age from 70 to 73. John is the baby and Harry the eldest. At 71, George is the middle man.
This year, the brothersí trees are heavy with peaches, the fruit so abundant that many of the branches hang low.
Itís quite a turnaround from a year ago when a late-April freeze decimated the crop.
John said ó and he swears itís the truth ó that last year, the brothers found but a single peach that survived the cold snap.
John said he picked that lone peach, then turned to one of his brothers.
ěI said, ëYou want half of this?íî John said, laughing.
Thatís certainly not the case this year. The brothers pick numerous pecks of peaches most mornings, then sit back and wait for the customers to come.
Itís a process theyíve continued for several weeks ó since the middle of July.
Theyíve got a sign by the side of the road that reads simply ěPeaches.î It draws plenty of customers. A peck of the Hipp brothersí peaches sells for $8.
ěWe move íem about as fast as we can pick íem,î Harry said.
According to the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, the method by which the Hipp brothers market their peaches is more the norm than the exception.
In North Carolina, about 80 percent of all peaches are sold via roadside stands and the like.
The farm the Hipp brothers ó Harry and George are retired, while John continues to cut hair at College Inn Barber Shop on West Innes Street ó tend has been in their family since 1920.
Their grandfather passed it to their father. John, George and Harry are known for raising beef cattle and only added peaches to the mix about eight years ago.
Most days, theyíre happy with their decision to do so but admit there are moments when they wish theyíd just stuck with cattle.
ěAt times, thereís a good bit of work involved,î said Harry, referring to the 17 varieties of peaches he and his brothers tend.
Branches must be trimmed, and land around the trees must be maintained so that pickers can get to the fruit when itís time for harvest.
Earlier this week, the brothers were relaxing in the shade under a stand they built for selling their produce.
The stand is a couple of hundred feet from Woodleaf Road. Arrows lead motorists to the stand once they turn off the road.
A customer casually asked if the brothers had someone who picked the peaches for them.
ěYeah,î Harry replied. ěYouíre looking at íem.î