TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Farm markets around Ohio are overflowing with tomatoes, peppers and corn. Just don’t expect to find many Ohio-grown peaches.
This year’s harsh winter devastated the state’s peach crop.
Fruit farmers around the state are relying on growers in South Carolina and Georgia to replenish their peach supply.
“There might have been a few farms down south by the Ohio River that weren’t affected, but for the most part this year was a disaster,” said Bill Dodd, president of the Ohio Fruit Growers Marketing Association.
Terry Gram, who owns Arrowhead Orchard in northeastern Ohio near Canton, said he usually grows eight different varieties of peaches. Instead, he needed a shipment from a farm in Pennsylvania this year.
“The peaches and nectarines are pretty short this year because of the cold weather we had in January. It went from 40 degrees to ten below in 24 hours and peach trees can’t take that quick of a drop,” Gram said. “It was so bad that we even lost some of the peach trees altogether. So besides losing the crop, we lost some of the trees — maybe 5 percent — but it’s still going to take years to replant.”
MacQueen Orchards, just west of Toledo, lost nearly 10 acres of its peach trees and got just 2 percent of his normal crop, said owner Jeff MacQueen.
Workers at the orchard were busy this past week cutting down dead peach trees and removing them to make way for new trees.
“I have 10 acres of young stuff, maybe one to five-years-old that’s good. But the older trees that are 6-to-15, they seemed not to do as well,” MacQueen told The Blade newspaper in Toledo.
The family’s market has been getting peaches from a farm in western Michigan where the peach crop largely escaped damage.
“When it got near 20 below this winter with the air temp, that pretty much killed them. I ordered 1,500 trees to replant but it takes three to four years for a tree to bear fruit,” he said. “That’s why you never plant peach trees all at once because they’re difficult.”
What makes them tough to grow in the Midwest is that the trees have short lifespans and don’t do well in sub-zero temperatures.
Ohio isn’t a big peach producing state. Most of those grown in the state are sold directly to consumers.
The state produced 5,370 tons of peaches in 2013. California, the top peach-producing state, had 648,000 tons last year.