Since 1950, the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council has been devoted to marketing and promoting the Garden State’s delicious and healthy peaches. Its members include growers, shippers, wholesalers and others who want to help farmers grow the best peaches possible while also preserving farmland in New Jersey.
“The council does a lot of things for the industry, it fills a lot of gaps,” said Jerome Frecon, a consultant for the council. “We work closely with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture promoting the Jersey Fresh program.”
Frecon noted there were about 14,500 acres of peach trees when he began working with the council in 1981. Today there are about 5,000, but the state still sells 50 to 65 million pounds of peaches each year. That ranks New Jersey fourth behind Georgia, South Carolina and California.
The council’s activities include hosting events such as a peach pie contest, crowning a Peach Queen each year and observing August as New Jersey Peach Month. Though those aren’t likely to happen in 2020 because of the coronavirus.
“I think now we probably sell more peaches in July than August,” Frecon said. “It’s hard to say, things have shifted as we’ve developed earlier varieties, we seem to have a stronger market early in the season.”
New Jersey’s peach season runs from early July until mid-September, and even though the state grows many varieties, Frecon said peaches rarely are sold by variety in supermarkets.
“About 60 to 70 percent of our peaches are sold through supermarkets, the rest are sold directly through U-pick, CSA farmers markets and community farmers markets,” he said. “When there’s someone who knows something about peaches, you can sell peaches by variety. If there’s an individual supplier, he can identify those peaches but when we sell them to the supermarkets, they don’t identify our peaches by the variety.”
He added that New Jersey peaches are typically promoted in Jersey, of course, but also in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Boston. Sometimes that target area becomes wider because of the volume of peaches that are available.
“South Carolina and Georgia are both growing later peaches,” he said. “It used to be the Georgia deal would be wrapped up before July; now their peaches run well into August. South Carolina grows more late peaches and California has peaches into November.”
There is also competition from other fruits, such as apples, which now take up shelf space in supermarkets well before autumn. Peaches also have to contend with other classic summer fruits, such as blueberries and grapes.
Frecon said the council is finding ways to make peaches stand out by offering different varieties, such as flat peaches, and by promoting locally grown fruit.
“We have lots of new varieties that the growers are excited about,” he said. “We grow a lot of flaming fury peaches, that’s a group of varieties that are popular.”
Other New Jersey peach varieties include the Desiree, Gloria, Messina and Victoria. Also growing in popularity, according to Frecon, are white peaches, known as rose peaches.
Another factor, of course, has been the weather and the unusually cold spring.
“We have had some pockets of frost and cold weather so I would say our production will be down this year compared to last year,” Frecon said. “It’s hard to gauge because we had at least five nights of sub-freezing temperatures during bloom. But the duration of the temperature and how low it went varied from site to site.”
While he said it’s difficult to estimate numbers, Frecon is certain there will be lots of Jersey peaches for consumer to enjoy this summer.