I Love Peach

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Peaches that bloomed late and thus missed the March freeze at Pearson Farm in Georgia. Production in the state this year might be just a quarter of what it was in 2016. Credit Maura Friedman for The New York Times

I have family in Georgia, and can attest to the state’s obsession described in the first paragraph of the article below. I have visited the state when peach is at its best, and the obsession makes sense to me. Although the article does not mention climate change, per se, considering the news I cannot help filtering this story through that one.

Farmers in the south are part of “the base” that have been led to believe that climate change is a hoax, and that efforts to mitigate it are wasted, even wasteful. Which leads me to wonder whether peach farmers at a moment like this might be on particularly fertile ground–whether they might be inclined to listen to science that can help them understand the season’s tragedy in a new light. For as long as there have been farmers they have been inclined to listen to all kinds of explanations for why things happen the way they do. Maybe climate change has just not been presented by the right messenger with the right message. I love peach enough to want to find out:

The South Faces a Summer With Fewer Peaches

By

ATLANTA — Peaches are such a part of Georgia’s identity that schools, streets and health care plans are named after them. Even the sticker you get when you vote is in the shape of the fruit. South Carolina, one state over, grows more peaches than Georgia. A giant statue of a peach is its most famous roadside attraction.

For almost all Southerners, a summer without a seemingly endless supply of peaches is unthinkable. But growers say the unthinkable is about to happen in America’s cobbler belt. A double punch of unseasonably warm winter weather and an ill-timed freeze has devastated the peach crop.

Production in Georgia might be a quarter of what it was in 2016, when the state produced 43,000 tons of peaches, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. In South Carolina, which is second only to California in peach production, the numbers are as bad or worse. As much as 85 to 90 percent of the state’s peach crop is gone, according to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. The state’s peaches usually bring in about $90 million a year, and their impact on the greater economy is three times that much.

“It’s just really, really bad,” said Juan Carlos Melgar, an assistant professor of pomology at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C. “Historically bad.”

Although many growers have crop insurance, it won’t replace lost income. And it won’t help workers who rely on the peach crop. Peaches provide about 1,500 jobs in South Carolina. Many workers are from Mexico and spend as much as nine months pruning the trees, thinning the orchards and harvesting the crop. Many contracts are being canceled or cut short, and workers are heading home or trying to find other agricultural work, Dr. Melgar said.

The problem began with a long stretch of warm weather over the winter, which deprived the trees of chill hours. That’s the time a tree needs to be exposed to temperatures colder than 45 degrees to ensure consistent blooming and plenty of fruit…

Read the whole story here.

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