Summer's coming and so are Georgia peaches
By Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau
Georgia peach growers have some sweet news: The state’s signature fruit is in plentiful supply.
“We’re in full swing,” said Will McGehee of Genuine Georgia, which promotes peaches for the state’s five commercial peach farms – Dickey Farms, Fitzgerald Fruit Farm, Lane Southern Orchards, Pearson Farm and Taylor Orchards. “The crop has plenty of peaches, as I’ve been telling folks. We don’t have a bumper crop this year, but we’ve got plenty. So we’re basically able to service everybody in the portfolio. Anybody that wants Georgia peaches, we’re able to get them what they want.”
The first week of June, McGehee said, is when the growers transition from picking the clingstone fruit to picking freestone fruit.
“The freestone peaches are what a lot of people wait on,” he said, noting that the arrival of the peach crop signifies summer for many consumers. “I feel like COVID has put everybody kind of ready for the summer, you know? Wanting to get life back to normal a little bit. Peaches occupy that spot in most people’s minds. It’s like man, when I start eating Georgia peaches that means it’s summertime. This summer, it seems like it’s magnified. Everybody was waiting on us with more enthusiasm than normal from our customer side.”
Peach production is geared to retail sales and not as dependent on restaurant and food service customers as other commodities, so the COVID-19 pandemic has not had a great deal of impact on peaches, McGehee said.
“When you think about what’s on a menu at a restaurant, it’s typically proteins and vegetables, starches,” he said. “Fruit is not a huge seller through the restaurant channel. It’s the same for bananas and apples and peaches and berries and all of it. They’ll throw us on salads every now and then, maybe make a cocktail with it, but we are just not relying at all on the restaurant side of the business. I’d say probably less than 2 percent of our overall sales go into that channel. So, as such, we just have not seen some of the devastating numbers that you do hear from folks that are relying on that channel. Everything we’re picking is making it into the market and we’re getting paid a fair price for it.”