GENTRY -- June 17 was the grand reopening for Taylor's Orchard at 12801 Taylor Orchard Road in Gentry, and this year's harvest includes many varieties of fruits, including peaches, nectarines and blackberries.
Taylor's Orchard has been a staple of the Gentry community for 38 years. And, Bill Taylor -- who, together with his wife Kathie, owns the orchard -- encourages area families to come out and "learn a little bit about agriculture and farming" while picking fresh fruit straight from his orchard.
This year's harvest is ready to be picked and visitors can enjoy the outdoors, as well as the fruits of their labors, Taylor said.
Bill Taylor comes from a long line of farmers, going back to his great-grandfather, who grew peaches in Clarksville. He has been a farmer all his life and has many happy memories related to his work.
"I had four brothers and we all helped out," Taylor said. "There were a lot of other teenage friends that would also work out in the orchard with us and there were a lot of fun times joking."
As opposed to buying fruit from a grocery store which is processed and passes through many hands, people enjoy the experience of harvesting their own fruit because they know they're getting the best, Taylor explained.
"You can't get any fresher than right off the tree," said Taylor. "There's just no way (peaches) can be as fresh and sweet as the ones that hang on the tree the entire time until they're picked."
Taylor enjoys growing peaches because they're "fragile and delicate." Unlike apples, fully mature peaches don't travel well, so they're processed too early so they can survive the trip to the store. But a mature peach picked straight from the tree is a whole other story.
"When you taste a ripe peach, you'll know exactly why it's so much better," Taylor said.
By presenting a peach that is untainted and in its most natural state, Taylor can see his visitors' expressions as they taste his peaches. That gives him pride in his work.
At Taylor's Orchard, peaches sell at $2.29 per pound. Visitors can choose pick-your-own fruit or buy already-picked peaches. And the peaches are ripe and ready now and will be in season from June through mid-September.
This year's all-star fruit is the orchard's "thornless" blackberries.
"The thornless blackberries really look good," said Taylor. "We got an abundance ... of blackberries this year."
Taylor assures visitors he took all the "fun" out of the blackberries, meaning no one will have to worry about his blackberries being "thorny, or sticky" or having pests. All you have to think about is "just picking." Thornless blackberries will be ripe in early July and throughout the summer through most of August. The cost is $4 per pint.
Although there isn't a limit on the fruit you can harvest, Taylor asks that guests "take what they want." But if they don't want it, "just look at it," Taylor said.
This is to ensure that everyone can have the opportunity to pick from the orchard.
Taylor's Orchard also provides amenities for guests so they can have an enjoyable experience. The orchard provides containers to help guests calculate the exact amount of produce they've picked.
The staff at the orchard has gathered all the fruit from the top of the trees to accommodate the visitors by leaving fruit on the bottom branches where it can be more easily reached. This will make picking easy.
The orchard has restrooms to "wash up before or after" picking and plenty of shade to relax and view Taylor's antique harvest equipment.
Taylor's Orchard hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The orchard is closed on Sundays.
Be sure to look out for Bill Taylor at the Fayetteville farmers market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. He'll have a selection of fruits at his stand. Taylor's Orchard has its own Facebook page and regularly posts updates for customers. Taylor's Orchard can also be contacted at 479-736-2004.
Picking the harvest isn't only about work; it's about spending time with people you care about.
Guests that visit Taylor's Orchard can appreciate nature while engaging in activities with their loved ones. And perhaps, along the way, meet new like-minded people, all the while enjoying the freshest of fruit.