Few people watch the weather as closely as farmers. Just ask Brian Sullivan and Gayle Okumura Sullivan, who have delayed the opening of their farm stand at their Dry Creek Peach & Produce in west Healdsburg several times now, thanks to the whims of Mother Nature. Now, it looks like we finally will be shopping for fruit next weekend, July 6.
“It been a crazy month so far with temperatures reaching 111 out in the Valley in early June, and then rain showers a few days later, but then the cooler weather this past week delayed our Red Haven peach harvest,” Okumura Sullivan explained, of the roller coaster conditions.
The Sullivans and their son Patrick actually introduced their first crop of Rich May peaches on Memorial Day weekend at the Healdsburg Farmers Market, but their on-site farm stand offers more variety. As the last remaining fruit farm in the Valley and the only dedicated, certified organic peach farm in the county, they harvest different kinds of stone fruit through the June to September season, in such delicious varieties as Autumn Flame peaches (August/September), and Elephant Heart plums (August).
It’s a labor of love for the family, as they plow the 6-1/2 acres of fields in the spring, plant cover crop, cull aging trees, plant new trees, prune and thin the orchard. Yet as Gayle notes, the land is blessed with mineral-rich soil fed by Dry Creek, and the fruit thrives in the ideal growing climate of Sonoma wine country. The peaches are left on the trees to ripen in the California sun as long as possible to maximize their sweetness and freshness, just as the farm’s original owners did when they first planted more than 50 years ago.
After the Sullivans purchased the farm in 2000, they added new products like organic peach jam (quickly snapped up by top restaurants such as Chez Panisse). Now, the orchard is home more than 30 varieties of white and yellow peaches, as well as nectarines, plums, pluots, figs, persimmons and Meyer lemons. Other new treats include Dry Creek Peach Bellini mix, Dry Creek Peach chips, peach wood for barbeques, and peach pruning wreaths (you can even make your own wreathes, at Gayle’s classes, complemented by Bellinis and peach snacks).
The farm stand itself is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day weekend. Or look for the succulent orbs at the Saturday farmers’ markets in Healdsburg and Santa Rosa.
Otherwise, you can find the fresh fruit in recipes at many Sonoma restaurants like Farmhouse Inn, John Ash & Co., and Syrah, and at Sonoma stores like Oliver’s and Whole Foods. Because perhaps the only thing better in life than a fresh stone fruit straight from the tree, is a chef’s stone fruit dish, straight from an award-winning kitchen.
Details: Dry Creek Peach & Produce, 2179 Yoakim Bridge Rd., Healdsburg, 707-433-8121, drycreekpeach.com. The stand is open noon to 5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through mid-September.
Tip: Weekends were made for wine tasting and picnics in Dry Creek Valley. Make it a memorable trip, and reserve a Pure Luxury limo to take you on a tour to Dry Creek Peach, Dry Creek General Store and Bar, and a variety of Dry Creek tasting rooms.