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Outlook is peachy for 2018 New Jersey peach crop

The 2018 New Jersey peach harvest “is pretty much right on target,” with an average yield expected, according to state officials.

“The crop this year looks good, and we expect to begin harvesting the first week of July,” said Douglas H. Fisher, secretary of agriculture for the State of New Jersey, in Trenton.

There had been concern that because of the cold spring that New Jersey’s crop would be behind schedule. Farmers were also very worried about unusually warm temperatures this winter, especially in February when the thermostat reached the upper 80s for a few days. “Temperatures that high could cause the trees to bloom, but the heat wasn’t prolonged, so that didn’t happen. Actually, the year before was more touch and go,” Fisher said.

SecretarywithPeaches New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher is impressed with this year's Garden State peach crop.New Jersey’s 80 orchards, spanning some 5,500 acres, produce approximately 50 million pounds of peaches annually, ranking the Garden State fifth in the nation in peach production, behind California, Georgia and the Carolinas.

“The weather has actually been good this year, and my growers are telling me that unless something happens we should have a very good season,” Fisher said.

“Our New Jersey climate and soil are ideal for peach trees,” said Santo John Maccherone, chair of the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council, the Glassboro, NJ-based organization of the state’s peach growers and packers, and owner of Circle M Farms, based in Mullica Hill, NJ. “They require 600 to 900 hours at a temperature of 45-degrees Fahrenheit or less, but above 10 degrees. To mature well, peaches prefer clear, warm weather – 75 degrees is ideal.”

New Jersey farmers grow several varieties of peaches, with Early Lorings and Flamin Fury Candor being the first to mature. They are followed by Red Haven and John Boy. “We always have other varieties that are coming on once the season starts, and we go all the way through September for harvest,” Fisher said.

The majority of the commercial acreage is in South Jersey, with peaches in the northern part of the state primarily being sold direct at the farm or in New York City farmers markets.

In an effort to boost consumption, New Jersey has been stepping up promotion and awareness campaigns, primarily on social media.

“We’ve been doing Facebook for several years now and building on it each year,” Fisher said. “Now we are doing Jersey Fresh content and we post and promote a number of different recipes. Our recipes have gone viral and we’re thrilled about that. We have a heightened awareness of how important it is with people now using social media and especially their mobile phones to get information about the various products – including peaches – that we grow.”

In late May New Jersey launched a new website – www.findJerseyFresh.com -- that tells consumers what crops are available and where they can find them. The site lists all of the state’s major farms, with those registered to participate in the state’s Jersey Fresh program highlighted with a Jersey Fresh logo.

“If you are looking for peaches, you highlight peaches, much like you would with any program, but then you type in your ZIP code and the site shows pins on a map where our peaches are sold,” Fisher said. “An added benefit is that the farm gets an opportunity to tell their story about themselves. They have provided us with the information they would like everyone to know about their operation,” Fisher said.

Garden State officials are also working to develop additional ways to use the state’s peaches, Fisher said. As an example he cited Circle M Farms, which makes its own peach cider that is available for sale nationwide and has developed quite a following.