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Winter can be cruel on York County crops. Here's the outlook for Fort Mill peaches

In 2017 frost took a toll on the peach crop in Fort Mill. Here's the outlook for 2018

Springs Farm in Fort Mill, SC, invests about 25 percent of its land to peach orchards. A recent late frost could have damaged the crop. Here's the assessment.
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Springs Farm in Fort Mill, SC, invests about 25 percent of its land to peach orchards. A recent late frost could have damaged the crop. Here's the assessment.

Although the last few years haven’t yielded the best peach production, Springs Farm general manager Ron Edwards is expecting a full crop this season.

This Fort Mill farm has been in business since 1936 and many residents look forward to stopping by the farm's roadside markets once the weather begins to warm, in search of the season’s first precious gems – strawberries.

But by the beginning of June, the strawberries will wane and give way to golden peaches and nectarines.

Edwards said nearly one-fourth of the farm’s fields — about 45 acres — are full of peach orchards. Last year, only bits and pieces of the crop produced due to a late frost. But so far, this year’s crop is looking very fruitful.

“You have to have nights that don’t get below freezing because that’s what kills peaches, when they’re in the full bloom and cold weather freezes the bloom,” he said. “Because it’s always that one night that gets you.”

York County Clemson Extension agent Paul Thompson agreed. He said one of the major factors to ensure a good peach crop are that late frosts don’t damage the flowers or young fruit. But he also mentioned other conditions conducive to a plentiful yield.

“We have plenty of moisture for fruit development, we receive no bad weather such as hail, and that the trees are healthy with good nutrient levels,” he said.

Although temperatures dipped below freezing a few times over the last several weeks, Springs’ peach production is still holding strong. Edwards said since the cold didn’t linger, and the temperature rose quickly at sunrise, the trees fared well through the recent, late frosts.

“We had a couple nights that it got cold and we probably lost a few blooms, but losing a few peaches isn’t bad because we’ll have to go in in another 30 days and start thinning them out,” he said. “They’re on there like grapes and you have to start thinning them out because if you don’t thin them, they won’t size; and there won’t be any good peaches.”

So, rather than harming the peach crop, the late frosts helped by saving the farmers from tedious work.

Peaches aren’t Springs’ largest crop, but they have the longest growing season – producing fruit from June through, sometimes, September if the conditions are right. Edwards said the farm grows about 40 varieties, including freestone cling and white peaches as well as freestone yellow nectarines.

With urban development quickly sprawling toward the farm, Springs’ fields are scattered throughout the area.

“We have some stuff on the (Anne Springs Close) Greenway, we have some in the river bottoms and over off (U.S.) Highway 21,” Edwards said. “It’s probably close to 200 acres if you put it all together.”

Although farming isn’t the easiest job, it has its perks. And Edwards looks forward to peach season every year.

“I just about live off of those things as far as breakfast,” he said. “I come in and go with the boys out to the fields and I always grab a couple peaches. All summer, I eat peaches for breakfast. I enjoy fresh peaches every morning.”

Springs Farm Market is located at 1010 Springfield Parkway in Fort Mill. The Peach Stand, a combination grocery, restaurant and convenience store/gas station and the "old" produce-only Peach Stand, are both on S.C. 160 WEst near U.S. 21 Business. For more information, call 803-548-3939 or visit springsfarm.com.

Stephanie Jadrnicek: stephaniej123@gmail.com

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