New Jersey peach growers are hoping to extend their season this year and compete more closely with out-of-state tree fruit thanks to a variety of promotional programs.
“We are always developing newer varieties,” said Jerry Frecon, agricultural agent at the Rutgers New Jersey Ag Experiment Station in Clayton.
“We are trying to promote the full market — white-flesh peaches, yellow-flesh peaches, white- and yellow-flesh nectarines and flat peaches.”
Frecon said New Jersey peach growers also have two distinct advantages: being one of the oldest peach industries in the country, and better quality and flavor because of proximity to major markets.
Frecon said the state government has also emphasized to the citizens of New Jersey that choosing locally grown peaches means helping to preserve farmers’ livelihoods and farmland in the Garden State.
Pegi Adam, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Farm Bureau, Trenton, said New Jersey growers are trying to get the message to supermarkets that they don’t need to source late-season peaches from California.
“It is quite competitive because supermarkets go back to California automatically,” she said. “Let’s not make it an automatic thing after Labor Day, because we still have peaches.”
Adam said that New Jersey’s state university, Rutgers, has developed late-season varieties that extend the season and will be picked this year.
“We are going to probably have peaches until the end of September that we can count on,” he said.
Phil Neary, director of operations and grower relations for Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, N.J., said peach growers have to grow late-season varieties.
“Peach growers tend to be specialists. They tend to be a peach grower only,” he said. “They have to have varieties that go all the way into the late season.”
Asked if he thought New Jersey peaches could be competitive in September, Neary said growers might still be picking through Sept. 25.
“We typically have very competitive, good volume … through September,” he said, noting that one challenge is changing retailer habits to turn toward fall crops after Labor Day.
He said another possible challenge this year might be a full peach crop across the country.
“Right now the entire country, for the most part, is thinking about the full crop potential,” he said.
“When you have a full crop, peaches have to move. You pick them, you pack them, you ship them.”
Peach experts said warm weather this spring led to a full, early bloom that may result in strong volumes this season.