It's difficult to tell which is louder. The constant whoosh of vehicles on S.C. 160, or the whine of a chipping machine devouring tree limbs.
Normally, these are the sounds of progress, signs that another stand of trees will soon be replaced by asphalt and a convenience store.
But in this case, it is not the sound of progress, but one of rejuvenation.
The chipper is shredding 20-year-old peach tree limbs that last summer still bore fruit, five to seven years past their life expectancy.
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New trees, about 21/2- to 3-feet tall and with a trunk the diameter "as big as your finger," soon will be planted to replace them, said Springs Farm manager Ronald E. Edwards. In all, 1,800 trees will be planted over 8 acres, mostly in the area know as the Skeet Range Orchard because of its proximity to the Springs Close family shooting range.
It is, said Clemson University Extension Service agent Andy Rollins, one of the largest replanting projects in the region this year.
It is a risky decision, one where taste, timing, weather and finances, are critical factors.
Each tree costs between $4 and $7, Rollins said. The price does not include the cost of pruning, fertilizing and other care for the three to four years it takes before the trees bear fruit.
Like most forms of farming, weather is the great unknown. Too little water causes problems. Too much water causes problems. Not enough sunlight causes problems.
A late heavy frost can kill the buds, ruining an entire crop. A light frost can knock off enough buds, allowing the surviving buds to grow to their fullest. Usually the area's climate swings are minimal, making this a good place for peach growers. South Carolina is the second-largest peach producer in the nation.
But there are times when the temperature drops and farm workers take to the fields at 3 in the morning, hoping there won't be a sustained freeze. With some crops you can spray water and freeze the buds, protecting them from the cold. But you can't do that with peaches, said farm supervisor Mark Kulpinski, because the branches will break.
Some farms have giant windmills to keep the air circulating, keeping temperatures from dropping.
In the past, growers burned tires, hoping the smoke would keep temperatures from falling.
At Springs Farm, they take temperatures at the top and base of the trees and hope for the best. Sometimes, the worst happens, like a 2007 frost which cost Springs Farm most of its crop.
To minimize some of the unknowns, Springs Farm is planting varieties that are drought resistant - August Prince and July Prince.
Rollins helped Edwards select the varieties, bringing peaches from the Clemson farms for Edwards to taste test. Clemson has data on between 200 and 300 varieties to help growers choose what's right for them.
The new varieties have a sweeter taste than most, Edwards said. The color is a deep red, rather than a yellow or orange.
And most importantly, Rollins said, is whether they will "time" well with other varieties in the orchard, making sure there is a constant harvest of peaches throughout the summer. Springs Farm has between 70 and 80 acres of peach orchards, not counting the 8 acres being replanted.
That's critical as 95 percent of the peaches harvested at Springs Farm are sold at their retail stands. Like other South Carolina growers, Springs Farm picks it peaches when they are firm, not green.
(Those who pick peaches when they are green rely on cold storage or hydrocooling to allow the peaches time to ripen.)
With all these factors, "you want a winner, not a maybe," Rollins said. That's why so much thought went into the variety selection before it goes into the ground.
There was also much talk about what to do trees being removed and very little of the tree is being wasted.
The chippings, ideal for barbeques and smokers, will be sold at the Springs Farm Peach Stand at the intersection of U.S. 21 and S.C. 160. The limbs have been cut into firewood, most of which has been sold.
Finally, the tree trunks will be removed and sold to woodworkers who will turn them into peach bowls.
"Anything to turn the tree back into a dollar bill," Edwards said.