Worth the wait: Good peaches likely to come later in season

By Katie Demeria

Virginia residents may notice the continued impact of this year’s long winter in their peaches, but should still see a good quality crop, if small, in the next few weeks.

The early peaches are doing poorly due to a late frost, according to local farmers.

Harold Paugh of Paugh’s Orchard in Quicksburg said the quality looks good so far, but the peaches are in short supply.

“We only have about 25 to 30 percent of a crop right now,” Paugh said. “That’s unusual for this time of year.”

Paugh attributes the disappointing crop to the late winter freeze. He said the trees did not even bloom.

Allen Easterly, owner of Rendezvous Farms in Basye, said his crop is equally bad due to the winter cold that “seemed to last an extra month.”

“We had a freeze when they were in bloom, so we lost most of the peaches,” Easterly said. “The few that we have seem to be behind a bit, they’re not where they should be at this point.”

There is still hope for those looking to buy fresh peaches, though. According to a Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services news release, most Virginia farmers are expecting a strong crop in mid-July, and the same seems to hold true for local farmers.

Holly Dillender, manager of the Woodbine Farmers Market in Strasburg, said right now she has seen about 70 percent of their crop.

“The early peaches were hurt the most by the cold, but the later peaches don’t seem to be affected at all,” she said.

Dillender said she will see the largest amount of produce usually by the end of July through the third week in August. So far the crop looks good, though she, and other farmers, are anxious for rain.

But the dry spell has helped peaches in other parts of the state, according to the release.

“In Central Virginia, growers report that weather conditions have been a little dry, which is perfect for bringing out the fruit’s sugar to develop a sweet-tasting peach,” it stated.

The release also stated consumers could expect a strong peach supply until September. The Peach Festival at Marker-Miller Orchards in Winchester is set for August 9, and owner John Marker said he expects his main crop to do very well.

“Those early peaches don’t like cold winters,” Marker said. “But the main season peaches — there’s going to be a good crop of those. I just hope we can keep some moisture.”

Marker added that the apple crop is looking good so far, as well. Paugh said the quality of his peaches and apples seem to be very good, as well, but the cold spring weather will make the apple crop fairly light this year.

“Our quality looks good, we just don’t have a lot,” Paugh said.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com