Off Highway 290 near Fredericksburg sits a family-owned farm and orchard with homegrown values and deep Texas roots.
Its signs entice customers with offerings of pumpkins, peaches, and the best that the seasonal harvest has to offer.
Welcome to Vogel Orchard, whose farming legacy dates back all the way to the early 1900s, when Armand Vogel used to sell small batches of peaches and other homegrown items from his car under a shade tree near the main road.
It was Armand’s youngest son, George, however, who took this side gig and turned it into a full-fledged business.
After marrying his wife, Nelda, in 1951, the couple planted their first peach orchard near their home in 1953 and soon discovered the fertile soil to be ripe for the harvesting of sweet Texas peaches.
George and Nelda sold peaches at their family home with “pick-your-own” offerings in addition to selling wholesale to larger markets, like those in San Antonio, until 1972 when the couple opened their iconic peach stand along Highway 290 in 1972.
As one of the first farmers in the area to sell this way, George had low expectations upon first opening the stand.
Despite these reservations, however, the family ended up selling three times the dollar amount of peaches previously expected during the course of that summer.
From then on, the farm and orchard continued to grow and expand throughout the years, as George and Nelda continued to cultivate the land with the help of their five children.
It wasn’t until 1997 when George fell ill that the two realized it might be time to slow down.
In 1998, George and Nelda’s youngest son, Jamey, returned home with his wife Terri and their two children to help with the farming business and with the Vogel family’s second farm equipment business.
Over the years, as the business and orchard have continued to grow, the Vogels have expanded their harvest to also include plums, blackberries, and pumpkins.
They also offer a variety of homemade preserves, jellies, and other assorted goodies sold under the label “Nelda’s,” which are still made using Nelda’s original recipe.
At 86-years old, Nelda is still involved behind the scenes, helping to prepare fruit for preserves and jellies.
Though she loves the peach preserves and claims them as one of her favorite things, fresh peaches remain the heart and soul of the business.
“You just can’t take away from the fresh peaches,” Nelda says.
In the last decade, they have also expanded their business to include a Fall store with an assortment of seasonal offerings and “pick-your-own” pumpkin patch, where patrons can venture out with sheers and a wheelbarrow to pick their favorite pumpkins straight from the vine.
While customers love the pumpkin patch and the seasonal spirit of the Fall store, “peaches are what people come for,” Jamey says.
Altogether, the Vogel family wants to build relationships with customers by providing a memorable experience for patrons who frequent the orchard and selling produce within a day of picking as often as possible to ensure the highest quality possible.
“Even if we grew bad peaches, people might come to us anyway just because they enjoy what we do,” Jamey said before adding with a chuckle, “Of course, we still grow good peaches.”
He continued by noting that many people don’t understand the hard work and dedication it takes to harvest and manage the orchard but are very interested in learning about it when they arrive.
“Whatever we can do to get that information out to folks and build those relationships the more they want to continue to come here and buy peaches from us, rather than just going to a grocery store and picking them up there,” Jamey said.
As far as the Vogel farming legacy goes, Jamey attributes his father, George, with setting an example of hard work and dedication for the family to follow.
Though George passed away earlier this year, the family orchard and legacy he left lives on.
As Nelda says, “The family grew up learning to work hard.”
“You have to make hay while the sun shines .. Make peaches while the sun shines!” She adds with a chuckle.
While Jamey and Terri are hopeful their kids, Josh and Baylie, will return one day and continue to grow the family business, Jamey says they “will never put pressure on them” to do so.
While it would be great to see the Vogel Orchard remain in the family, Jamey says they would rather see the business disperse than see their children keep the family orchard alive out of obligation rather than real enjoyment.
Above all, Jamey says the greatest legacy and truest “blessing” has been the young high school and college students who have returned year-after-year to work on the Vogel Orchard.
“I think we’re setting an example for them of seeing what a family working together can do and just building that work ethic,” Jamey says before adding that many of these skills, like looking people in the eye and learning to interact with customers, will benefit these young adults for the rest of their lives.
When asked what being a Texan means to him and his family, Jamey simply said, “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Being in the Hill Country, we feel really blessed because we’ve known for a long time we’re in one of the most wonderful areas in Texas.”
As the wine industry and tourism in Fredericksburg and the surrounding areas continue to grow, demand is at an all-time high for the Vogel Orchard.
With the summer harvest ending and fall arriving on the farm, the family’s deep Texas roots and long history in the Hill Country embody so many of the homegrown values of what it truly means to be Texan.
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.