“We had a very heavy peach bloom because of the warm weather we got in late March/ early April,” Frecon said. “Nights have cooled down a little, so things have slowed down.”
Although Frecon said anything can happen between now and harvesting, growers are expecting a normal season of marketing. That translates to 60% to 70% of the crop going to wholesale channels and 30% to 40% of the crop through on the farm retail or farmers markets
“We’ll start picking in early July and by July 10, we’ll probably be shipping some early peaches,” he said.
Frecon said he expects suppliers to be marketing peaches into September, but he said there could be additional late-season pressure this year because of an increase in plantings by southern states and traditional competition from California peaches and nectarines.
Kurt Alstede, general manager for Alstede Farms LLC, Chester, N.J., said he is increasing his acreage of tree fruit, including apples, peaches, cherries, plums and nectarines.
“We’re in the midst of planting 3,000 apple trees,” he said, noting the increased demand from families in urban areas visiting his pick-your-own farm and staying for a half-day of activities.
Frecon said that even with farmers like Alstede planting more acreage, peach acreage has dropped each year recently because of the pressure for land.
He estimated this year’s acreage to be about 6,600 acres, which translates to 65 million pounds of peaches.
“There is just too much pressure for land,” he said.
“It was declining more rapidly, but the demand for land has slowed down with the decline in house sales and development.”
Frecon said that Gloucester county used to provide 70% of the acreage for peach orchards, but farmland loss to residential construction has led to more plantings in Cumberland and Salem counties further south.
“It’s easier to sell the land for good money than to grow peaches,” he said.
Although a smaller player in the peach deal compared to states like California, Neary said New Jersey benefits from the know-how of multi-generation peach growers.
“Some farmers in New Jersey, literally their family came off the Mayflower and they are 11th generation,” he said.
“New Jersey is well adapted to growing peaches, and has experts in bringing a peach to maturity, so it has full flavor.”
Neary said although New Jersey can’t compete with California’s promotional dollars, the state banks on its proximity to market and freshness.