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Southwest Michigan peach deal begins

Peach harvest in southwest Michigan is under way. “A few are in now,” said Barry Winkel, the partner and general manager of Benton Harbor, MI-based Greg Orchards & Produce Inc. The volume will grow in the last days of July.

Red Haven peach harvest will begin from this area in the first week of August, Winkel said. Southwest Michigan’s peach trees were hurt by bitterly cold weather last winter. Winkel expected about two-thirds to three-fourths of a full peach crop.

Over the winter, a couple of times temperatures in those orchards bounced as low as -17 degrees Fahrenheit. “Usually if you get to -10 it really gets iffy," he said. "I’m surprised we got through with what we did.”

Growers around Benton Harbor have experienced a cool, wet summer. “Today the highs will be in the mid- to high 70s, and the low tonight will be in the 50s,” he said. The rain helps the size “but sometimes it affects the flavor. If it stays warm now, we will be fine.”

Winkel said local demand “will gobble up all the peaches we have.” Buyers in Michigan and surrounding states — certainly including Illinois and particularly Chicago — create very strong markets.

“We are within 500 miles of a lot of people," he said. "We have more requests from buyers for pictures and the backgrounds of our growers, as they tout locally grown.’”

In southwest Michigan, the apple harvest will begin with Paula Reds in the third week of August.