County peach crop still a little behind schedule

Published 8:47 am Friday, July 11, 2008

There may have been a small freeze again this year, but nothing has seemed to stop Chilton County’s peach farmers from having a successful crop.

Last year was a hard year for local farmers, as many lost more than half of their crop to a late freeze. This year, things seemed to be getting better until the heat rolled in without any rain.

“Although it was a better season for some farmers because we didn’t have a big freeze, it was a worse year for some farmers,” said Jim Pitts, superintendent of the Chilton Research and Extension Center.

Due to the loss of chill hours, Pitts explained, many of the peaches are taking longer to ripen which is creating a bad situation for farmers who have to waste gas to check on their crops. Some are actually using more money to care for their remaining peaches than they will make off sales this year.

Chill hours were not the only factor that affected the peaches this year. A large hailstorm caused major damage to the peaches as well as peach trees. This storm affected only a few parts of the county, though, and was not a major factor in the overall production of peaches this year.

Local farmer Henry Williams of Mulberry Farms in the Isabella community found himself with a good crop of peaches this year.

“I have had a pretty good year so far with my peaches. There have been some varieties that have ripened late, but I have gotten out about three-fourths of a full crop, which is good compared to the crops that we had last year,” he said.

With a little more rain and more nights of cold weather, this year could have been a much better year for local farmers. Pitts said the biggest peaches of this season are just around the corner.