Peaches Picking Peaches

By: Lisa McDivitt Email
By: Lisa McDivitt Email

From pruning, thinning, irrigating and picking, women in Palisade work tirelessly on their orchards in a role that was traditionally just for men.

Unlike the women of Palisade Peach farms from the past, Becky Davis does much more than just pack up the fruit.

She drives the tractor, prunes the trees, and works in harsh conditions throughout the year.

"There were times when I felt like I wanted to just cry because it would be hot and it is miserable," said Becky Davis of Davis Family Farms.

But Becky got inspiration to keep going from the woman who was also her mentor.

"I thought, if Jessie can do this, I can do this," said Becky.

Jessie Jacobs Herman is one of the most celebrated peach farmers of recent years. She and her mother, Billie, won the growers of the year award in 2002.

And when Becky first arrived in town, Jessie helped the Davis' get their start, even though they were competitors.

Becky says, "I was so inspired by her and her mother, running this huge operation."

Jessie had taken over for her dad when he became terminally ill and joined her mother in the orchards.

"At one time we were going at running 40 acres, which is pretty good for two women,” says Billie Herman, Jessie’s mother, who owns Valley Fruit Stand.

Jessie passed away last year, and her mother has since sold off some of their acreage. But Jessie's legacy remains in the lessons she taught farmers like Becky.

"She became very efficient in running the orchard and loved it,” says Billie.

This trend of support permeates the palisade orchards.

"Farmers helping famers... women are great – they help each other," says Debbie Burnett, another female farmer who, like Becky, didn't ever grow up thinking she would be in the peach business.

"I would have never guessed this is what I would do. I can't grow a houseplant," says Debbie, who owns Just Peachy.

They’re out in the orchards every day now, not only packing and selling the peaches, but getting in the trees, right along side their husbands.

"We really work together. We prune together, we pick together. We both irrigate, we both get dirty," says Debbie.

Becky adds, "Now I'm kind of finding that it's an unsung hero situation. There are women out here, working these orchards like men do."

And now these women are helping mentor other young women, who are up–and–coming peach farmers. Passing on not just Jessie's knowledge, but her spirit.

"I can see her with her big hat and her overalls and she always had make up and lipstick on,” says Becky. “And she was the most beautiful woman out in the orchards that I have ever met. She was my inspiration."

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