Heart of Louisiana: Fruit Farm
(WVUE) - You may not think of South Louisiana farms as a place where you can pick fresh apples and a lot of other fruits, but one New Iberia farmer is determined to grow everything in his fruit orchard.
Eddie Romero says he grew up on a farm.
"We had five commodities," he said. "A sugarcane. We had corn, we had, um, soy beans, crawfish, rice, cattle.
But when farmers fell on hard times in the 1980s, Romero got a job at an ethanol plant, and he immediately started making plans for his retirement.
"I decided to start planting a few fruits, so I'll place a few fruit trees, and I planted a vineyard, and I planted everything slowly, just a little bit at of time," Romero said.
Now that he is retired, Romero has a full-blown orchard. You name it, and he probably has it growing here.
"The grapes will be ready in June," Romero said. "The muscadines in July. The pears would be in July. The apples are usually ready in June to the end to beginning of July. I think I got to just about all that can be planted in South Louisiana.
Most of this fruit never makes it to the market. That's because customers come by and pick their own.
"You touch 'em and you squeeze 'em and they're soft to the touch, that means they're ripe," Romero said.
That's a wine grape. They won't get big, but they make a lot. They make, I'll say about two- or three-hundred pounds on this vine.
There are grapes for eating and grapes for wine-making.
"The way I get my wine is Ii sell you the muscadines, you make the wine, and you bring me back two bottles to brag about and I've got my wine made," Romero said. "I've got over 40 bottles right now."
Reporter: "It sounds like you're not afraid to try new things."
Romero: "Uh, no. Not at all."
Reporter: "Have you ever tried a fruit that just it's not going to grow here? You have failed?"
Romero: "Yeah, I failed many a time. I started in 1986 trying to plant cherry trees, and the cherries just won't make over here.
Romero has become an authority on growing fruit in Louisiana. He teaches university classes and has been president of the Louisiana Fruit Growers Association.
Romero: "That's paw paws. Weird looking fruit. Very high in anti oxidants."
Romero and his wife handle the entire operation, and at age 75, he has no plans to slow down.
"I had a job one time just sitting down behind a desk, and I couldn't stand it," he said. "It was too hard for me. And this right here, really sweating and getting all of this crop in and all of that? I love it."
And you're invited to share that passion. Stop by and pick some fruit, and pick up a few good stories.
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