Early arrivals

Published 7:54 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The 2009 Chilton County peach crop has been an interesting class of sorts this year. And, as the first varieties of peaches are already graduating to area markets, a few others have had to be held back for a few days.

Bobby Boozer, Chilton County Extension Agency horticulturist, said he has reviewed the crops on the north end of the county, in Thorsby, Jemison and others, and says most of the first varieties are still a few days away.

“Every crop is different; every crop has its particulars,” Boozer said. “I would guess that we are looking at five, six or seven days away for most.”

Peach Park has already begun selling Chilton County peaches. Peach Park manager Brett Benson said the peaches being sold were bought from Larry Smitherman, who has an orchard on Chilton County Road 37.

“They started picking them on Sunday,” Benson said. “We’ll have them now until mid-October.”

Boozer added the cold, rainy weather the area has seen this spring, including a late freeze in early April, has created a little more damage to the crop than first reported, but says it will still be a “good harvest.”

“A few days after the early April freeze we were saying around 25 percent of the crop had suffered damage. After seeing some of the thinning in some areas and some later damage, I would say it’s closer to 30 percent,” Boozer said. “That still leaves a very good 70-75 percent harvestable crop this year.”

Boozer also added the rains in the past few weeks have caused a “few more” disease problems area farmers are battling— not only in peaches but strawberries.

“We will always complain about something,” Boozer said. “After a few years ago, we are definitely pleased to have this rain, but a few, longer breaks would be appreciated.”

And, as for the taste, Boozer said for “early season” peaches, these will be very good.

“The early varieties, in quality of appearance and quality of taste, are excellent for early season peaches,” Boozer said. “But, these will not compare to the ones we will be seeing in early June.”