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The headline of this article is the tagline on the New Jersey Department of Agriculture's Jersey Fresh peach poster, and it's never been truer than this year. Thanks to favorable peach growing conditions, New Jersey is expecting an excellent crop.

Like most recent New Jersey winters, there was plenty of consistent cold weather, allowing for the state's peach trees to rest and remain dormant. The little bit of frost damage that was recorded in some areas merely provided some natural thinning. With that help from Mother Nature, the thinning of this year's crop of New Jersey peaches was completed early, and there is definitely the potential for good fruit size this year. Overall, the crop is in very good shape.

The spring continued to be very generous to New Jersey's peaches. A nice combination of sunshine, moderate temperatures and adequate moisture has brought the crop into the summer months with the potential for excellent early-season varieties.

With early thinning and good soil moisture, New Jersey peaches will be starting the season with the potential for good sizing, which should carry through the rest of the season.

The early yellow peach harvest started in late June. Increased volume should be starting around July 10, with peak volume expected from about July 25 through about Sept. 10. New Jersey's yellow peach season always starts with the Sentry variety, followed by Red Havens, in turn followed by John Boys, which are expected to start in late July. Those varieties will be followed by the Bounty variety, the 24-007s and the Cresthavens, expected to start in mid- to late August. The newer Gloria variety will be boosting New Jersey's peach volumes during the Cresthaven season. Next in the lineup is the Jersey Queen, and the season is expected to finish in September with the Encore and Laurol varieties.

New Jersey's white peach season will be starting in late July. The White Lady and Klondike varieties are expected in mid-August, followed by the Sugar Giant and Lady Nancy varieties. The white peach season is expected to finish in New Jersey with the Snow Giant variety in mid-September.

Eagerly responding to retailer requests, New Jersey shippers are constantly evolving their packs to meet the demand of the marketplace. In 2009, the primary pack will continue to be the half-bushel box, with about a 25-pound "loose place pack" or volume fill. However, additional packs will include the four-pound and six-pound consumer or clubstore packs and the two-layer tray packs of about 19 pounds, sometimes referred to as shoe box packs. Some 30-pound packs in corrugated cardboard or returnable plastic containers are also expected to be shipped this year.

In support of the 2009 crop, the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council will be expanding its marketing efforts to retailers, consumers and the media with assistance from a Specialty Crop Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

New York, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania are being targeted with consumer and industry media advertising, a comprehensive public relations and communications program featuring press releases, an improved website, a peach-tasting event and an August-as-Peach-Month event designed for regional food writers and for print, radio and television outlets. These efforts will be supported by a wholesale buyers guide and in-store promotions.

For copies of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture's "Jersey Fresh Peaches Born to be Keen" retailer poster or copies of the New Jersey Peach Wholesale Buyers Guide, contact the New Jersey Department of Agriculture at 609/292-5536.

For other availability or promotional support, visit the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council at www.jerseypeaches.com.

(Logan Brown is an economic development representative at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.)

(For more information, see the New Jersey Peach Section in the July 13 issue of The Produce News.)