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Grow Avocados in Texas? Yes, We Can.

Most people associate avocados with Mexico, California, and Florida, but there's a small thriving avocado business right here in Texas. Along with its famous grapefruits and oranges, the Lower Rio Grande Valley is home not only to myriad backyard avocado trees but to a number of commercial enterprises, as well.

Typically, Valley avocado growers maintain orchards smaller than 10 acres, primarily serving farmstands and specialty mail-order businesses. An exception is Ciomperlik Farms in San Juan, near McAllen. With a 6-acre orchard, Stanley Ciomperlik began a weekend sideline 18 years ago; now he farms 40-plus acres and harvests about half a million pounds of avocados per year. "It's a great business," he says; he's currently developing 150 additional acres. Despite regular pruning, his trees regularly reach 40 feet tall.

Not only does Ciomperlik wholesale fruit to Wal-Mart, HEB, Winn-Dixie, and Luby's, but he also sells Lula avocado seeds to California growers for disease-resistant hosts on which to graft the Hass avocados that dominate the American market. (The smooth-skinned, bright-green Lulas are popular in South Texas, but the darker, rough-skinned Hass variety is better able to withstand shipping around the country.)

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