Credit: Jason Vorhees, The Telegraph
A Lament for the Georgia Peach
Due to this year’s unusually warm winter, Georgia peach growers are facing one of the worst seasons in memory. In this week's commentary, Salvation South editor Chuck Reece has a few words of lament for this situation—and some thoughts about how to behave when you visit a fruit stand that has no peaches.
A long time ago, I asked someone how to know when a peach was exactly ripe enough to eat. The answer was this: If you bite into it and the juice runs all the way to your elbow, then it’s picture-perfect. And it's best to stand over the sink when you eat it.
But today, when I walk into the big farmer’s market near my house, finding Georgia-grown peaches is a hit-or-miss situation. It’s been a rough year for Georgia peach growers. Our unusually warm winter—coupled with an unexpected late frost—hurt the peach crop something awful. Really awful.
So awful, in fact, that our peach farmers will lose about ninety-five percent of their crop this year. Two causes for this disaster: climate change and just plain old bad weather. As GPB’s Grant Blankenship reported, peach trees need a certain number of what growers call chill hours, or time in which unopened blossoms are in sub-45-degree temperatures, before they can make fruit. And chill hours, thanks to global warming, have been on the decline for decades.
As for the weather, unseasonable heat in February caused the peach blossoms to open early—just in time for most of them to be killed by a cold snap in early March. Dario Chavez of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service told Grant, “We haven't seen a loss like this since 1955.”
Even The New York Times weighed in with a story bearing the headline, “What’s a Georgia Summer Without Peaches? Not So Sweet.”
Peach eaters and cobbler makers and pie bakers all over are having a summer that isn’t so sweet. But you wanna talk about an unsweet summer? Let’s not lament what us eaters cannot eat this year. Instead, let’s turn our attention to the good folks who grow and harvest and market peaches all over Georgia. The estimated economic hit they’ll take—in lost sales and lost jobs—will be upwards of two-hundred-million dollars.
So this year, if you stop at a fruit stand or orchard and see no peaches, don’t you dare get huffy and complain to the proprietor about the lack. As peach eaters, it’s not just our job to pay the farmers who grew the fruit. It’s also our job to tend to the farmers themselves. Let your words be kind and encouraging. Buy whatever they do have on sale and tell them you will be back next year with your peach cobbler recipe in your back pocket.
Come visit us at SalvationSouth.com.
Salvation South editor Chuck Reece comments on Southern culture and values in a weekly segment that airs Fridays at 7:45 a.m. during Morning Edition and 4:44 p.m. during All Things Considered on GPB Radio. You can also find them here at GPB.org/Salvation-South and please download and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform as well.