BOILING SPRINGS — A late freeze has claimed part of the Upstate peach crop, but strawberries have dodged the bullet and may provide a much-needed infusion of cash for fruit farmers.
“We had pretty severe damage on our peaches, but I feel pretty optimistic right now about strawberries,” said Thomas Ragan, who grows both crops on his farm near Boiling Springs. “We dodged the recent rain and the strawberries seem to be coming in well now. We have excellent quality, and now the yield is improving with the warmer weather.”
Ragan and other peach farmers in some parts of the Upstate lost much of his crop to a mid-April freeze.
“We have some small peach growers that are 100-percent out of it this year because of the weather,” said Andy Rollins, a Clemson Extension agent who works with commercial fruit and vegetable farmers in the Upstate. “Hopefully a strong market for strawberries can help some of them get by. They need that revenue this season.”
Rollins said most Upstate strawberry growers were spared the heavy rains that threatened to soak the crop at a critical time.
“We’re real thankful the thunderstorms that were supposed to go through missed us, because we had a huge amount of fruit out there,” he said. “Heavy rain on ripe strawberries can ruin the fruit. A lot of us were holding our breath over that.”
Rollins said the Upstate strawberry crop is moving into its peak season now and that both quality and yield appear high.
“I pick strawberries three times a week to monitor them and the quality is terrific,” he said. “There’s a very high sugar content, and the berries are large. We’re past the early part of the season, when we had some cold damage. We’re just getting into the bulk of our production now.”
Peaches, still weeks away from harvest, have suffered though.
“Thankfully several of the bigger farmers were spared,” Rollins said. “A lot of our peaches are in the Chesnee and Gowensville areas, up around the mountains, and it was actually warmer there than down around Spartanburg. So while we have some farmers who won’t make a crop, others will still be able to.”
Ragan, who is about to open the roadside stand through which he sells most of his retail fruit, is watching carefully to see what will be available later in the season.
“The thing about peaches is, you don’t always know how they’re going to finish,” Ragan said. “Often the damage doesn’t show until you get to harvest. We’re thankful we’ve got a strong crop of strawberries, though.”