“This is shaping up to be a potentially perfect peach season, and growers are anticipating a great crop,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We had a cold enough winter this year, which has helped peach trees produce heavy blooms, and we didn’t have any late frosts to damage their growth.” The crop is likely to exceed last year’s $5.3 million total.
Danny Bynum harvests his peaches from trees his father planted on the family land. His family has been farming peaches locally for three generations. With year-round work to be done, the entire family pitches in and appreciates bonding with the land. Bynum’s nephew Worth Bynum says he would rather help on the farm than sit inside during school hours. He says he enjoys the hard work, and even researched peaches for his senior project.
Bynum says his peaches are smaller this year, and a week late to ripen due to a lack of rain. However, Kevin Hardison, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Marketing Specialist warns buyers not to overlook smaller peaches. “Often the smaller peaches are sweeter, because they retain more sugar,” he said.
The Sandhills Research Station has peach breeding programs in place to strengthen the fruit’s productivity as a market crop by making peaches that mature in the most profitable market window. Established in the 1940s, the Sandhills Research Station breeds peaches to be especially useful to farmers. While breeding, they screen for disease resistance, favorable size, flavor, and flesh quality. 2010 Peach Field Day is scheduled for Tuesday at the Sandhills Research Station in Jackson Springs. Highlights include disease, insect, weed, and orchard floor management, to name a few.
Local farmers are busy with their harvests. There are roadside stands and sheds, tables at the Farmers’ Market, and upcoming peach events. Peach festivals are lining the July calendar, as Candor and Lumberton get ready to celebrate their peach crops. On July 17, Candor’s annual N.C. Peach Festival starts at 10 a.m. with a parade and runs until 3 p.m. Live bands ,The Sand Band and Blue Horizon, will perform and listeners are asked to bring chairs. Activities include games and a helicopter ride. Peach ice cream will also be for sale. Families can also participate in a peach cooking contest and a 5K family run/walk. There will also be a sky diving exhibition. This year’s Peach Queen Molly Catherine Stutts will be there.
Lumberton’s 10th Peach Day is on July 24, from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m. This is a smaller event than Candor’s festival, but free homemade ice cream.
Though peach farming takes place all over North Carolina from mountains to coast, the Sandhills area farmers lead in peach production. Though the South has lead in the production of peaches as a commercial fruit crop since the 19th century, North Carolina is currently 15th in the nation for peach production.
Dawn Kurry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 997-3111 ext. 15.