Western York County peaches, produce weather the cold

jbecknell@enquirerherald.comApril 8, 2014 

— A cold, wet winter has damaged some Western York County peach crops, but farmers say consumers are unlikely to notice.

“It was a rough winter,” said Arthur Black, owner of Black’s Peaches on S.C. 5 west of York, who said he lost about three varieties of peaches in a late freeze last month.

Black, who grows about 25 varieties of peaches, said he expects to have about 60 percent of a full crop this year.

“Usually you pick about four and a half bushels to a tree,” he said of the peach crop. “Now, we might average maybe two bushels to a tree.”

However, he said consumers who visit the farm’s produce stand on S.C. 5 west of York and other places to buy fresh peaches are unlikely to notice a difference. “They see you have 100 baskets of peaches out. They don’t know what you picked that day,” he said.

Black and Sam Hall at Bush-n-Vine on U.S. 321 north of York said they expect the produce season for all crops to run about a week to 10 days later this year because of the cold spring.

“We’ve been spoiled for the last three, four, five years, because the springs have been earlier,” Black said. “This is more of a normal type of spring.”

Hall said Bush-n-Vine didn’t suffer significant peach damage during the recent freeze, but he and Black said the degree of damage peaches suffer due to cold weather can vary widely, even within a few miles, due to factors like elevation and wind circulation.

Hall said sometimes there are small pockets where the temperature is colder, which is why crop damage can vary from farm to farm.

“It got a few of the peaches,” Hall said about two nights of below-freezing temperatures in late March. “But there’s nothing bad about that; it just thinned them out a bit.”

Hall said the farm is getting ready for strawberry season in about a month.

“We’re picking strawberries right now out of the tunnels and they’re real pretty,” Hall said, referring to covered areas where the strawberries and other crops are grown during the fall and early spring.

“The strawberries outside, they’ll be ready in about two to three weeks,” said Hall. The farm plans its annual strawberry festival on April 26.

Black said his farm also will have locally grown strawberries for sale by early May. He expects the peach crop to be ready by early June.

Ben Smith, owner of The Peach Tree, said he expects a full peach crop.

“Peaches are 99 percent of what I do,” he said. Smith, who said his crop didn’t suffer significant damage from the freezes, said his farm is at a higher elevation than some areas “and that can make a big difference.”

“But we’ve got until April 21; that’s the latest week we’ve been killed,” Smith said about freeze damage.

Smith said the cold winter hasn’t hurt the peach crop.

“We have to have so many cold hours before they’ll come out of dormancy and we’ve got enough cold hours, so we’re in good shape,” Smith said.

Hall said Bush-n-Vine has been expanding the variety of produce it grows, in part due to its participation in a Community Support Agriculture program in which consumers pay to receive a weekly box of in-season produce.

Hall said the farm is growing vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, lettuces, tomatoes and kale. It recently began growing Brussels sprouts, in response to some requests from consumers, he said, but has not yet harvested that crop.

In addition to strawberries, the farm’s fruits include blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, he said. Hall said the farm also has planted apple trees, and he hopes to harvest the first apple crop in the fall of 2015.

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077

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