A representative of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture and board members of the Eastern Produce Council met for April's dinner meeting in New Jersey. ( Courtesy Eastern Produce Council )

South Carolina growers are promoting their crops to mid-Atlantic and Northeastern buyers as a seasonal alternative, a South Carolina Department of Agriculture representative told the crowd at Eastern Produce Council’s dinner meeting.

The department hosted EPC’s monthly meeting April 23, at Il Villaggio in Carlstadt, N.J., for the 48th consecutive year, according to a news release.

Katie Pfeiffer, the state’s director of merchandising, was the moderator for the state’s presentation, which included crop updates and comments by Jimmy Plunket of Seedway LLC and president of the South Carolina Watermelon Association; Matt Forest, owner-operator of Dixie Belle Peaches and president of the South Carolina Peach Council; and Weatherly Thomas, president the South Carolina Specialty Crop Growers Association. 

Plunket said South Carolina is the fifth largest melon-producing state, and that 10,000 acres of watermelon were planted this season. Plants were in the ground by April, and growers expect harvesting and shipping to run mid-June thru late July. Plunket said 80% of their watermelons are seedless. 

After an early March freeze, the state’s peaches dropped to about 70% of the crop, although excellent quality fruit is on the trees now, Forest said. Harvest will be early May through early August. South Carolina is the second-largest peach producer in the nation, Forest said. 

The state is also known for collards, summer squash and sweet corn, Thomas said, although beans and peas are also staples and the Sea Island tomatoes are well-known. This year’s strawberries have a great size and sweetness, and blueberries should come in June, Thomas said.

As is tradition at the April meeting, Pfeiffer introduced the EPC’s new directors and slate of officers for the coming year. 

Coming up is the Annual EPC Golf Outing June 1, at Royce Brook Golf Club, Hillsborough, N.J. Interested members can contact the EPC office at 908-723-0645 or [email protected] to register a foursome or to reserve a sponsorship.

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