Georgia growers are celebrating the biggest and best peach crop in recent memory and the success of their first “Georgia in July” promotion.
During the three-week promotion, which began July 10, the Byron-based Georgia Peach Council and individual growers offered retailers in-store radio spots, bin merchandisers, farm market bags, recipes and social media materials, including a Facebook application that allows consumers to send a virtual Georgia peach to brighten someone’s day.
“Results were fantastic,” said Duke Lane III, council president and vice president of sales with Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, Ga.
“Georgia in July encouraged retailers to not only call out Georgia but to highlight peak season and our best-eating freestone peaches,” Lane said.
Despite heavy rains during bloom and harvest, Lane said newer, more resilient peach varieties and improved practices at both the farming and packinghouse level minimized fungus and bruising, allowing growers to harvest and pack nearly 90% of the 2013 peach crop.
The rain also produced bigger fruit than last year, he said, without sacrificing flavor.
Volume statewide is up an estimated 30% from 2012, Lane said, and the fruit’s quality resulted in significantly higher prices than last year.
The council may use dietitians in next year’s promotion, he said.
While many peach growers were finished by early August, Andy Futch of Ellijay-based R&A Orchards, in north Georgia, planned to finish his season on Labor Day weekend.
“It’s been a lot better season than last year because we had more volume,” said Futch, who cultivates 40 varieties of peaches on 20 acres of land.
He began harvesting in early June for supermarkets and the family’s popular roadside market.
Georgia is the third-largest peach-growing state, behind California and South Carolina.