It isn’t often you see a traffic jam in the quiet community of Webb. But for the past decade or so, on a single day before Thanksgiving, cars from three states will line up to get their share of tasty satsumas.
Blame it on Dallas Hartzog, manager of Hartzog Farms, where they’ve been growing the seedless citrus for 14 years. And this year’s crop may be the best ever, he said.
Satsumas resemble tangerines, but they are actually members of the mandarin orange family. They are sweet and easy to peel, and they draw a crowd every year to this farm near Headland in the southeast corner of Alabama.
This year’s one-day satsuma sale is set for this Saturday. It begins at 6 a.m., but customers begin arriving much earlier. “We have quite a customer base,” said Hartzog, “with people coming from Andalusia, Panama City and Blakely – from all around the tri-state area. They want to make sure they get their fruit.
“It’s not uncommon to see the road backed up. But we are efficient and get customers in and out quickly,” Hartzog said.
The farm’s 800 satsuma trees sit on about 10 acres. There is a processing barn where the fruit is inspected, washed, sized and boxed.
This year, they’ve added a large, refrigerated storage area. That allows Hartzog Farms, in addition to the one-day sale, to supply satsumas to area schools.
It’s a family operation, and with this year’s bountiful harvest, sale day will be all-hands-on-deck. Even the grandchildren will be pitching in.
“We enjoy what we do,” said Hartzog, who retired after 41 years with Auburn University, where he served as peanut specialist at Auburn’s Wiregrass Experiment Station in Headland. About five years before retirement, he planted his first satsuma trees.
“It takes about four to five years for a tree to be able to support a load of fruit of around 300 pounds,” he said. “We don’t allow the young trees to bear fruit, to give them time to get strong. We have had older trees yield more than 400 pounds of fruit. This year, we will get about 500 to 600 satsumas per tree.”
And they will be going fast on Saturday.
“Most of our customers are older,” said Hartzog. “I think they remember holiday seasons when fruit was given as gifts, and they just want a taste of that memory.”
To get your taste of sweet satsumas, head to Hartzog Farms on Saturday. The farm is at 1633 Otis Buie Road, in Webb.