Then came a brutal three-day freeze in March. In South Carolina, many trees had blossoms or had already set fruit; that crop was devastated. In Georgia, the trees were so confused by the weather many just never produced fruit at all.
The strange weather combination might save some of the crop. Trees that had worried farmers when they were late to bloom because of the warm winter weren’t hurt by the freeze. As a result, Georgia will have early peaches, but growers warn the supply will stop by early or mid-July, which is when most people here say peaches begin to taste the best.
It’s an odd blessing, said Will McGehee, the sales and marketing manager of Pearson Farm, which grows peaches and pecans in Fort Valley, Ga., about 100 miles south of Atlanta, in a part of the state with 1.6 million peach trees.
“If you go by what the old-timers say, we should have had nothing,” he said. “Let’s just say we’re looking forward to pecan season.”
South Carolina has the opposite problem. The state’s early fruit was wiped out, but growers are hopeful about the late-season crop. There just won’t be that much of it. Roadside stands and local markets will be stocked with peaches, but there will be little to ship elsewhere.
In Atlanta, grocery stores might appear to have more peaches than usual in the next month or so because shippers are likely to forgo the cost of shipping most of the state’s peaches north, which is what they do when the crop is more abundant, said Gary W. Black, Georgia’s agriculture commissioner.
This year, Northerners might not miss that Southern fruit at all. The 2017 New England peach crop is looking great, growers there said. Of course, after last year, any peaches look good.