From Freeze to Feast: Georgia Peach Orchards Rebound with Bumper Crop in 2024!

Fort Valley, GA |

What a difference a year makes. After seeing orchards full of damaged peaches in 2023 due to a late freeze, it is the complete opposite this time around, as there will be plenty of fruit to harvest in 2024, after Mother Nature served up an ideal spring for growers.

“That was nice to go through a Spring where we didn’t really have to crank up the wind machines and we weren’t running around burning hay bales and a lot of stuff that doesn’t make a lot of difference, but we think we’re helping, but this year, it was a good kind of Spring that you would like to order up if you could,” says Al Pearson, Owner of Pearson Farms.

“We normally expect some damage from cold, and so, normally an eighty percent crop, eighty percent of full bloom and full crop in every orchard, is usually a full crop. This year, we had pretty much a full crop across the board. I’ve seen peaches in places I’ve never seen peaches before,” says Jeff Cook, County Extension Coordinator.

Those favorable conditions were a continuation from the winter months, which saw the crop receive more than an adequate number of chill hours. In fact, the growing season was optimal enough to serve as a gauge for the future.

“This year is a barometer for us that, with the no frost and a good Winter and such, if we have a problem with a peach variety this year, we need to think about not planting it,” says Pearson.

That isn’t to say the weather was perfect, as there are always issues to deal with throughout the year.

“We’ve had another wet year so far. It’s dried off recently, but we’ve had a really wet year. I think we’re thirty something inches of rain already for the year. So, we’ve had a really wet year. When you’re growing a crop that’s perishable like a peach, it has a bunch diseases. Moisture is one thing that feeds a disease. If you’ve got a crop that the disease attacks, and then you have plenty of moisture, if you can’t protect that fruit, then you can have some issues,” says Cook.

Despite that, it is expected to be a bumper crop, which does create some complications when preparing orchards for harvest.

“That just made it for a lot tougher, a lot harder job to go in there and prune and then come back and subsequently thin. Once we knew ‘hey, we, we’ve got a crop, now we’ve got to get it thinned so we can size them up and have good, quality peaches.’ You’ve only got so many people who you plan for the year that you’ve got coming in, coming to work, and those guys have to be able to get around to the whole farm. This year, they actually had to go to the whole farm to try and thin peaches because there were peaches everywhere,” says Cook.

However, you won’t find any growers complaining about a big crop, as they are excited to get their fruit out to consumers in the coming months.

“It’s dry right now, hot and dry, but that makes peaches taste real good. So that’s a good thing and we know that the fruit that we deliver is going to ripen well for the customer and be a good thing to eat,” says Pearson.

By: Damon Jones