York County peach farmers hold their breath as freeze moves in

Special to The HeraldMarch 25, 2014 

Workers prune peach trees at Springs Farm in Fort Mill earlier this month. York County farmers braced for below-freezing temperatures Wednesday that held the potential to wipe out most, if not all, the season’s peach crop.

ANDY BURRISS — aburriss@heraldonline.com

— Expecting below-freezing temperatures overnight, local farmers braced Tuesday for a potential blow that could wipe out one of the most anticipated food staples for the summer: peaches.

Three York County farms reported having more than 75 percent of their peaches in bloom this week. If temperatures dip below 28 degrees, all of the delicate blooms could be lost, said Bob Hall, owner of the Bush-N-Vine farm in Filbert.

“We just hope and pray we get through the next couple of days,” Hall said.

The National Weather Service predicted temperatures would fall to freezing by 2 a.m. Wednesday and drop to 28 degrees between 5 and 6 a.m. Forecasters predicted temperatures to stay below freezing until 9 a.m.

That could result in a total loss for Bush-N-Vine, Hall said, since 100 percent of his peaches are in bloom.

The last time a deep freeze destroyed local peach crops was in 2007.

Springs Farms in Fort Mill has nearly 90 percent of its 70 acres of peaches in bloom, farm manager Ron Edwards said. If the majority of the crop dies, York County farmers would have to buy peaches from other growers in South Carolina or Georgia, he said.

That would be disappointing for the farmers who pick the ripe peaches and drive them to their markets to be sold the very day they were picked, he said.

“We tell people the peach you ate today was hanging on the tree this morning.”

Buying peaches from other farms could make the purchase price skyrocket, said Beth White, manager of Black’s Peaches in York, which has 75 percent to 80 percent of its peaches in bloom. The farm invests roughly $70,000 for its peach crop, she said, and property insurance covers only a portion of that if the peaches are killed.

Farmers have no way of preventing the trees from freezing and will not know the extent of the damage until 24 hours later, Edwards said. Other factors, such as wind gusts and the length of time the freeze lasts, can determine if the fruit survives.

“There is a lot of things to weigh in when it comes to Mother Nature,” Edwards said.

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