“Child, be proud of your dark skin! Why, don’t you know the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice? Um, hum, it’s true, girl, it’s true.”
Hmmmm. I hadn’t thought of that anecdote from my childhood in a long time. Somehow, on a journey to pick blackberries, the thought just seemed to pop up.
Rick Webb discovered his proverbial field of dreams while out driving in the Edmond/Guthrie area with his wife, Cindi. A little over a month ago, the couple purchased Peachfork orchard, and Rick literally cut a slice of his pie in the sky.
“When I stepped out there and saw these rows and rows of blackberries, I just couldn’t believe this was for sale,” he said, gesturing to the berry-laden vines he can now call his own.
“I feel like God had this place for me.”
You will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16).
The idyllic expanse of Peachfork beckoned to Rick, an insurance agent with a heart for youth ministry. The 40-acre tract, with seven to 10 acres of orchard, felt like coming home.
Rick, 44, said he has his own “little miniature orchard” in the backyard of his Deer Creek residence: Two pecan trees, three peach trees, three cherry trees, an apple tree and two boysenberry bushes.
Peachfork, with its numerous trees, pond and lush blackberries, is a sign of providence, he believes.
Soon after buying the land, Rick said he had members of Crossings Community Church, which he and his family have attended for years, out for a visit. His son, Kyle, and daughter, Amy, began manning the “berry box,” where folks seeking blackberries get their berry-picking baskets. When the picking is done, pickers, their hands often stained with reddish-purple berry juice, bring the fruits of their labor back to the box where the young Webbs tally up the cost and offer a couple of blackberry recipes.
Same as Rick, I seem drawn to the place. A piece of blackberry pie made by a colleague whetted my appetite for the succulent fruit. Seems the anecdote passed down to me long ago rings true…
The dark violet berries clustered among the vines are ripe, glowing like amethysts, ready to be picked and eaten.
“They really almost melt in your mouth,” Rick said, holding one of the tempting morsels up for me to see.
Reddish-purple berries hang here and there – in the middlin’ stage – not quite ready for picking. Bright red berries, while they shine like beautiful holly clusters in the late evening sun, are definitely not ripe and are sour to the taste.
Rick expects them to ripen in the next two to three weeks. His hope is that berry pickers, from the culinary-minded to the just-for-fun seekers, will visit Peachfork soon. “I’d hate to see all these berries drop on the ground and just waste.”
Rick said Elmer Wright and his family were Peachfork’s original owners and they did a “fantastic” job of organizing the orchard and maintaining it. Rick and Cindi bought the land from R.J. and Alvina Heinrich who kept the place in “park-like” condition, which Rick vows to maintain.
Many of the peach trees for which the orchard is named were damaged by storms over the years. A strawberry patch which once yielded sweet red fruit did not survive.
Yet the blackberries thrive and thus the orchard bears plentiful fruit.
Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:18).
Rick says there are about 20 rows of blackberry vines, each about 100 yards long. The vines hang on trellises, held up by numbered, wooden posts. Rick foresees a Bible verse tacked to each of those posts, the Word clear for all to see. As berry pickers weave among the green-leafed rows, searching for the sun-dappled fruit, they’ll be reminded of God’s grace, Rick figures.
Peachfork is and will be a place of serenity, where families, church groups and others can visit.
“It’s just so nice and peaceful,” Rick said.
The endless possibilities for ministry in a haven fertile with abundance excite him.
“I feel like God had this place for me,” Rick said.
“This, for us, is a ministry. We hope that people will be blessed for many years to come just as we have been blessed by this place, a place that God wanted us to have.”
Peachfork is about 2 1/2 miles north of Waterloo Road on Kelly. Rick said people familiar with Edmond might understand it better if they figure going 3 miles straight north on Kelly from the Oaktree addition entrance.
The berry pickers most familiar with the orchard have come and gone, Rick said. Now he’s hoping others find their way to the area so the berries won’t go unplucked.
Peachfork is open from 7 a.m. to noon and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 341-PICK (7425).
Hurry; Rick says there are only a few more weeks left of blackberry season.