Get Ready for Fresh Peaches

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PeachesinsIf biting into an aromatic Illinois peach and letting the juice run down your chin marks your summer rite of passage, never fear. You’ll soon be able to observe your annual practice. 

Old Man Winter took a toll on southern Illinois peach trees. Growers north of Interstate 64 got hit hardest, but many growers south of Interstate 64 plan to harvest a normal crop. “We have a full crop. We plan to start harvesting the second week of July, which is a little later than usual,” said Michelle Sirles, Rendleman Orchards assistant vice president. The orchard supplies homegrown peaches to 14 county Farm Bureaus in northern and central Illinois in addition to other customers.

Mike Flamm, owner of Flamm Orchard at Cobden, also expects to harvest a normal crop. “We had some bud damage, but we usually have to thin the buds. We didn’t have to as much this year,” said Flamm, who sells peaches from his farm and provides wholesale quantities to produce markets and grocers.

The situation looks slightly different for Chris Eckert and Aaron Eberlin, who own orchards north of Interstate 64. Eckert of Belleville, president of Eckert’s Country Store and Farms, estimates slightly more than half a normal crop will soon be harvested. “We have a little less than half a crop. We’re on the dividing line (Interstate 64),” Eckert said. “We’ll have enough peaches to supply our retail and on-farm customers. There will be no major expansion for us this year, but we’re not blown out of the water.” He expects early variety picking to begin the end of this week.

Eberlin, owner of Eberlin Calhoun Peaches & Produce at Golden Eagle, expects to harvest 35 to 40 percent of a normal crop.“We’re in southern Calhoun County. There are no peaches 7 to 8 miles north of us,” said Eberlin. “We’ll harvest Red Havens first (around July 10-12), and they look like a normal crop. There’s good size on the peaches.”  Eberlin sells peaches at the Jacksonville and Urbana farmers’ markets. He also markets some of the crop to wholesale customers, but probably won’t have enough peaches to sell for that purpose this year.

To locate peach growers and farmers’ markets, visit specialtygrowers.org and illinoiswherefreshis.com.

Content provided by FarmWeek - Chris Anderson

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