Enquirer Herald

Some peach farmers lament small crop

Some Western York County peach farmers are reporting a smaller, later crop this year due to damage from a late spring freeze, and pick-your-own peaches are limited or not available at all.

The Peach Tree owner Ben Smith and Patricia Bryant with Bryant’s Peaches both said they are asking pick-your-own customers to call before they visit to make sure the farm has peaches ready.

“We’re running a little bit short this year on peaches,” Bryant said. “But I have several varieties that I have plenty of them that people can pick.”

But Arthur Black, owner of Black’s Peaches on S.C. 5 west of York, said his farm won’t have any pick-your-own peaches this year.

“We just don’t have any volume of peaches,” Black said. “We thought we had 50 to 60 percent of a crop, but it’s going to be 10 to 15 percent of a crop.”

Black said he realized early in July that the peach crop would be much smaller than he had expected.

“We had a bunch of peaches, but the seeds were dead and they just buttoned up and didn’t grow. We thought we had peaches, and we didn’t.”

Not all orchards suffered freeze damage, however.

Bob Hall, owner of Bush-N-Vine on U.S. 321 between York and Clover, which grows about 24 varieties of peaches, said his farm has a full crop and plenty of pick-your-own peaches.

“Those last frosts we had were just real marginal,” Hall said of the April freeze. “It just depended on the location of the orchard. It go could either way.”

Hall added: “It was a borderline night. Some orchards got hit worse than others. In a low-margin night like that, all it takes is one or two degrees difference in getting damage or not.”

Bryant, who owns Bryant’s Peaches at 777 West Old Limestone Road between York and Clover with husband Jimmy Bryant, said the farm had a small crop of early peaches, which are mostly cling and semi-cling varieties.

Later freestone peaches, beginning with the end of June and into July, are more abundant, she said. Bryant said the farm grows 16 varieties.

Smith, who grows 22 varieties of peaches at his farm on U.S. 321 between York and Clover, estimated he has only about 75 percent of his crop due to losses from winter freezes.

“Several varieties didn’t get but a peck to the tree when they should have gone a full bushel,” he said. “When they don’t go but a peck to the tree, that’s not enough to supply my stand.”

But Smith said the peaches are tasty. “The quality is great, and the size is good because of rain,” he said.

Smith said his farm has had some pick-your-own peaches, but the quantities are more limited than in past years.

“How long it’s going to last, I can’t tell, because some varieties have a full crop on them and some varieties have a third of a crop,” he said.

Black’s daughter, Beth White, said the Black’s Peaches roadside stand is fielding lots of calls from people who want to pick peaches.

“We have tons of calls every day,” she said. “Most people are sympathetic.”

Black said the stand has peaches for sale. However, he said some varieties have been scarce.

Black said he has 200 Contender trees that produced just 175 baskets of peaches. Typically, he said, those 200 trees produced 1,200 to 1,500 baskets of peaches.

“It has taken all we get plus some to run a peach stand without pick-your-own,” he said. “We have a lot of people upset and we just don’t have the peaches.”

Black said he has some peaches near a 7-acre lake on his property that fared better during the cold.

He said the lake was probably warmed during several warm spring days; when the temperature dropped, the warm moisture saved the nearby peaches.

“It warmed up in that low spot, and typically that works the other way,” Black said. “It’s hard to figure out Mother Nature.”