Northeast is in for peachy summer
Northeast is in for peachy summer In this April 27, 2017 photo, Ben Clark walks among peach trees in full bloom at Clarkdale Orchards in Deerfield, Mass. (Paul Franz/Greenfield Recorder via AP/istock/Drigli)
Northeast is in for peachy summer
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A year after the peach crop in the northeastern United States hit the pits, growers and agricultural experts are anticipating a healthy rebound in 2017.
Peach orchards across the region have come alive with pink blossoms. If the weather holds out, it could be a bumper harvest.
"Everything just dialed in this year," said Al Caggiano. He is co-owner of Sunny Slope Orchards, in Bridgeton, New Jersey. It is a third-generation family farm with about 500 acres of peach trees.
Two weather anomalies combined to devastate last year's Northeast harvest, experts said.
First, the crops in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York were pretty much wiped out. Growers dubbed it the Valentine's Day Massacre, when temperatures dropped below zero in many areas on Feb. 14. That is unusually cold even by normal winter standards. The low temperature killed the flower buds.
"There was no peach crop in Massachusetts last year," said Jon Clements He is a fruit specialist affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Extension.
Then, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were hit by an unexpected cold spell last April.
New Jersey is the nation's fourth-largest peach grower behind California (which alone grows nearly three-quarters of the U.S. crop), South Carolina and Georgia. New Jersey grew nearly 22,000 tons (19,958 metric tons) in 2015. The U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics service has predicted just 14,000 tons (12,700 metric tons) grew last year.
Sunny Slope got hit by a "double whammy," said Caggiano. He estimated that the farm's peach harvest was down about 50 percent last year. In addition to the April cold, a localized hail storm in July further damaged the peaches.
But so far this season, the weather has aligned perfectly.
"We had a mild winter and we actually bloomed right on time the first or second week of April," Caggiano said. "Then we had a 10-day period with no real cold temperatures during bloom."
In Massachusetts, the 2015 peach crop was good. But last year it wasn't even worth counting, Clements said.
Connecticut's harvest was down 90 to 95 percent last year over 2015. This is according to some estimates.
Frank Carlson runs Carlson Orchards in Harvard, Massachusetts, with brothers Bruce and Robert. Frank Carlson called last year a massacre.
"On Valentine's Day, when it went below zero, we lost every bud on every tree," he said. "We didn't see one peach in 25 acres. It was a wipeout."
This year, things are looking up.
"We just experienced a beautiful bloom. So we are anticipating a pretty decent crop," he said, hoping to match the roughly 200,000 pounds he harvested in 2015.
Peaches are typically harvested starting in July. They are the first money crop of the year. Peaches play a critical role in the financial health of any fruit grower, said John Lebeaux. He is commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.
Farmers took a hard financial hit last season. For example, the crop in Massachusetts in 2015 was valued at about $3.4 million. Although final USDA numbers for 2016 aren't out yet, UMass' Clements estimates it was just a tiny fraction of that last year.
The failed peach crop cost Carlson Orchards tens of thousands of dollars. Insurance makes up just a fraction of that, Carlson said.
Like everything in farming, the peach harvest depends on the whims of the weather. So nobody's feeling too fuzzy about the peach harvest quite yet.
When it comes to the weather, Carlson said, "there's a lot of ifs, ands or buts."

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How can experts predict crop yields with accuracy?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • samanthas-1-ste
    5/18/2017 - 01:28 p.m.

    They can predict them by looking at the weather for the year. I have never really been a fan of peaches, but I think that it is cool how they figure it all out.

  • cesars-
    5/19/2017 - 08:36 a.m.

    Experts can predict crop yields with accuracy because of the way they do things to keep the crops from getting destroyed.

  • samb-ver
    5/19/2017 - 09:06 a.m.

    The article was talking about that the peaches are going down by the weather. Last year they didn't grow as many they wanted to grow. That's why in 2017 there hasn't been peaches at the stores because maybe they don't look right to sell them at the store. There's a lot of crops they still don't grow because they think it's not the right time to grow them because the weather it's changing so much..

  • Rhyder D-tar
    5/19/2017 - 09:19 a.m.

    I would love o live there peaches is my favorite fruit. Whats yours?

  • judea-buh
    5/19/2017 - 12:13 p.m.

    Wow, I'm glad we're getting peaches this year. I hope I get a chance to try one up north. I love peaches, they are so delicious!

  • nathanm14-ste
    5/19/2017 - 01:28 p.m.

    Poke my finger down inside. Make a little room for an ant to hide.
    Natures candy in my hand, or a can, or a pie.

  • syriahab-bur
    5/19/2017 - 02:21 p.m.

    Peaches weren't growing due to weather dropping each year. If the weather continued to reduce each year, than it's only obvious it's gonna drop again.

  • emmaw-kut
    5/19/2017 - 02:25 p.m.

    One way i think they can improve accuracy is by watching temperatures. With watching temperatures they can make sure that buds will bloom without worry. In the article they said that with the temperature drop that no buds, made no money. So if you could see the temperatures then they could see if it would be a good season or not.

  • jordanb2-ver
    5/19/2017 - 03:10 p.m.

    there was more than 50% of peaches a few years ago. i dont know why it went down. i hope i does not go down more. peaches are good

  • mariac-kut
    5/20/2017 - 03:25 p.m.

    This article really talks a lot about;temperature,peaches,crop. I think that this article is very important because, you get to see that someone put time and effort to give you what you are eating. Sometimes in life you everything will not go exactly according to plan. But you can always find a way to keep going. Even though it may just look like a article about peaches it has a deeper meaning than just peaches.

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