Community gathers for Peach Production Meeting

Published 5:06 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2017

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Peaches are a big deal in Chilton County and the Annual Chilton Area Peach Production Meeting provided farmers with an outlet on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

The meeting took place at the Alabama Power Conference Center in Clanton, where 100-plus people piled in to discuss the happenings in the agricultural world.

“We do this every year about the last week in January,” said Gary Gray, regional extension agent of commercial horticulture. “It is an opportunity for growers, researchers and people in the industry to get together. That’s where a lot of the best information is exchanged.”

According to Gray, the landscape of agriculture is always changing and it remains in a constant fluid state. The meeting is the place to update the public about the latest technological and scientific advancements.

Researchers from other states made the trip to Chilton County to share their latest findings.

“Some of the best interaction that we can have is with the growers,” Gray said. “Whether that happens as a part of the meeting or afterwards, that is the good stuff. We try to get the information out that is most applicable to the people of Alabama,” Gray said.

Presentations from various speakers discussed topics such as fruit research and management of for orchards with inadequate chilling, which has been a growing concern, and recommendations for peach insects.

As of Jan. 11, the Chilton Research and Extension Center in Thorsby had logged 521 hours below 45 degrees. That is a major difference at that point in the year compared to the 650 hours measured 10 years ago.

One of the primary strategies to combat the lack of chill hours is to prune as late as possible and fruit thinning should be done more carefully. This was stressed during the meeting.

“There’s a lot that we still don’t know about when it comes to chill hours,” attendee Steve Wilson said.

New at this year’s meeting was an exhibit area that attendees could explore prior to the start of speakers’ presentations.

Dr. Raj Patel with True Dermatology offered free skin cancer screenings for producers, Don Wambles demonstrated ways to accept electronic forms of payment at the marketplace and grower’s permits were also available to be renewed on site.

“The state law allows that if you grow your own produce and go to sell it in places such as Alabaster, Marion or Alexander City, you don’t have to buy an individual business license everywhere you go,” West said. “You can sell there as long as you have permission from the property owner where you are setup.”

The screenings were a popular place, as a large number participated and took advantage of the checkup.

The Clanton Lions Club also had a booth setup among the exhibits and was getting signatures of farmers who wanted to take part in the 2017 peach auction by donating a basket.

“We’ve been serving the people of Clanton for about six months now and what I noticed is that a lot of my patients are out doing something related to agriculture,” Patel said. “They are the ones that are getting some of the worse skin cancer and skin damage.”

According to Patel, a typical examine involves checking the skin from a person’s head to their toes for certain indicators.

“Sun damage is really something that needs to be addressed and not something to let linger,” Patel said. “It’s important to address self-awareness to help prevent future problems.”