Millions of peaches, peaches for me
The peaches are ripe, the harvest looks very good and the festivals are gearing up. It’s time to check www.virginiagrown.com for a pick-your-own farm or farmers’ market selling fresh, juicy Virginia peaches. Many grocery stores and big box stores also offer Virginia Grown peaches.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) says the 2011 crop is very good. In Virginia, peaches are considered prize produce, and it’s no wonder. In 2010, Virginia produced 6,210 tons of peaches, valued at more than $3.8 million. Based on crop conditions as of July 1, estimates call for the 2011 peach crop to total 6,000 tons.
The peaches are of good size, color and sweetness, and Virginia offers a good variety of peach colored, white, donut shaped and other types of peaches. Varieties include Alberta, Bisco, Blake, Bounty, Crest Haven, Earli Glo, Early Red Haven, Flaming Fury, Harbelle, Loring, Red Haven, Sun High, Topaz and more.
Early rain in the spring boosted growth and this year’s peaches are good sized. Growers did not lose fruit due to late frost, and so far the state has seen no widespread damaging summer lightening, wind or hail in the main peach-growing regions, which are the northern, central and southwestern Virginia. The recent hot weather helped the peaches increase their sugar levels, yielding an exceptionally sweet product.
Light picking began in June, but the peak of the season should run from mid-July to Labor Day. All areas will have yellow flesh peaches, white peaches and donut varieties. Growers in Central Virginia say donut peaches are extremely popular this year. On a recent weekend, traffic waiting to get into a pick-your-own farm was backed up all the way to the interstate ramp.
According to VDACS, the state has approximately 2,000 acres of commercial peaches. This does not include the pick-your-own farms that sell directly to the public. Consumers will find farmers’ markets, pick-your-own farms and other outlets for Virginia peaches at www.virginiagrown.com. They may search by location, zip code, type of venue or product. Consumers with a Windows 7 phone can download a free Virginia Grown app for their smart phone. VDACS urges consumers to call ahead to their favorite farm or market for ripening and picking dates and to ask for Virginia peaches wherever they shop.
A list of peach festivals is available at www.vdacs.virginia.gov/news/festival.shtml. Most of them occur in August. From Loudoun to Patrick County, Bluemont to Winchester, consumers will be able to pick peaches, eat peaches, buy peach products and enjoy related events such jumping pillows, hayrides, live music even an agility course or retriever’s pond for their canine friends.