Extreme Weather Patterns Threaten Georgia’s Peach Supply
Erratic weather patterns, unseasonable temperatures, and frequent storms have made produce farming harder than usual over the past few years. Summer and autumn of 2016 saw "extreme drought" in Georgia and Tennessee. Those dry months were followed by an unusually mild winter in 2017, which robbed peach trees of the cold periods they need to bear healthy fruit.
Then there was an unusual freeze in March. And then the rains came. Since the spring, the region has seen "buckets and buckets" of rain, farmer Pam Hazelrig told ABC News. Average rainfall in Georgia has held steady at about 9 inches per month—nearly double the state's historical summer average.
State agriculture commissioner Gary Black says Georgia farmers will lose about 70 percent of their peach crop this year. Those in the middle of the state, the heart of peach country, were hit hardest.
Farmer's market customers can expect fewer peaches and a shorter peach season.
"Typically, we'd have peaches into August and September," Black told The Packer, "but we're not going to see that this year."
Orchards on the West Coast, unaffected by the unusual weather, are gearing up to help East Coast markets cover the shortage.
Peach producers know that their business is "a gamble," Hazelrig said. "You just work through it."