This time of year is usually a cause for celebration for peach growers. However, there won’t be too many smiles this year as freezing temperatures late in the growing season have them harvesting just a fraction of their overall crop.
“We’re kind of estimating somewhere between twenty percent, twenty-five percent of a crop, something like that, and that varies by variety,” says Lee Dickey, Owner of Dickey Farms. “Most of the damage was done kind of early in the season to the early May crop, but we have peaches all along. So, you know, in terms of kind of local peaches, they’ll still be peaches but in terms of, you know, shipping to major grocery chains and this kind of thing, it’s just going to be very slim.”
While temperatures have been colder in previous years, this is the worst damage growers have seen in quite some time due mainly to the freeze showing up at the worst possible moment.
“You know, the stage the peaches were at this year when the freeze came, that’s really what caused most of the damage. We had peaches this big in some varieties, and once they are past that bloom stage, past the shuck split, they’re very, very susceptible to damage. Any light frost uh, can really harm the peaches there,” says Dickey.
And just like that, growers see a year’s worth of planning, pruning and patience take a major hit, which leaves them with plenty of frustration.
“Yeah, it’s very disappointing, very disappointing. We were hoping for a great season this year, looking forward to picking a lot of peaches. So, you get all the way there, right? You’re not quite to harvest, but you’ve done a lot of work and so, it’s certainly disappointing in terms of not having the fruit you hoped for,” says Dickey.
However, the silver lining is the peaches that do make it onto the shelves will have the same kind of quality consumers have grown to expect.
“Right now, peaches look good. They’re growing,” says Dickey. “I think they might be a little bit early this year, so, I mean, that’s one thing we’re watching now and being able to communicate with people and buyers is timing, but overall, peaches look healthy, look good. The trees look great. It’s just not many on there.”
That will obviously have an impact on the market as demand for sweet, Georgia peaches is unlikely to fall, while the supply will be severely limited. That means shopper might have to pay a little more this year to enjoy Georgia’s signature fruit.
“Prices are going to be higher this year just based on limited quantities and just the short crop, but we’ll have peaches in our market all season long. We just won’t be shipping out and packing as many peaches as we normally do,” says Dickey.
By: Damon Jones