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Increasing N.J. peach production and demand are a vote of confidence

On June 28, Pegi Adam, communication consulting director for the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council in Clayton, NJ, told The Produce News that as soon as New Jersey peaches hit the market in late June and early July, the demand shoots up immediately.

Adam added that this spring has seen large new plantings, especially in Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland Counties.

“Among those growers planting new trees are Holtzhauser Farms and Heilig Orchards in Mullica Hill; a large planting in Melick’s Town Farm in Oldwick; Donaldson Farms in Hackettstown; and Terhune Orchards in Princeton,” she said. peach-festival-2010-Doug-Fi 2013 Peach Queen Ashley Wright with New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher.“This is definitely a vote of confidence for New Jersey peaches.”

“Growers are planting more trees, and that is a healthy sign for the New Jersey peach industry,” John Maccherone, owner of Circle M Farms in Salem, NJ, said in a NJPPC press release. “I have increased my own plantings of yellow- and white-fleshed peaches and nectarines on my own farms.”

And people eagerly anticipate the first sign of the crop movement. With the use of social media today the council and growers can get the message out to the trade and consumers faster than ever.

Adam noted that last year’s crop was much earlier than normal, but this year’s seems to be back on a typical schedule.

The council continues its aggressive promotional efforts to get retailers, restaurants and farmers markets to participate in its “Peach Party” program.

“People are jumping on board to get involved in peach promotions,” said Adam. “Last year we had 31 ‘Peach Party’ events at restaurants, farmers markets and retailers. This year we have even more, but the final numbers aren’t in yet. They want to hold their events under our umbrellas because they can use our point-of-sale materials, such as our brochures and banners.”

Participants are allowed to develop their own event in ways that work best for them. A retail store, for example, can display banners and offer samplings. Farm stands can organize events that include activities for participants and restaurants can create a menu that includes peaches.

“Collingswood Farmers’ Market does a big peach event with a three-night promotional event,” said Adam. “It is located in Collingswood’s flourishing downtown business district. Melick Orchards in New Providence, Chatham Borough, holds a ‘Little Peach Queen’ event each year. This year Chatham High School contacted them and wanted to hold a high school peach queen. So now we have two Melick Orchards’ peach queens.”

In fact, there are now three peach queens in New Jersey. The state’s recognized peach queen is between the ages of 16 and 18, and is crowned on the last night of the annual Gloucester Township County Fair, which will be July 27 this year.

Adam added that Linda Casciano, the manager of the Hammonton Farmers’ Market, contacted her this year about the peach queen.

“She told me that the town of Hammonton had an annual peach queen from the 1940s through the 1960s, and they wanted to hold a reunion of their queens,” she said. “She asked if our reigning peach queen could be at the event. This ‘Peach Party’ promotional campaign has evolved in the funniest of ways.”

It has also evolved in widespread ways. Restaurants across New Jersey develop special fixed price menus where every dish contains peaches, some hold one-evening events and others run them for weeks. Farmers markets find amazingly creative ways to celebrate their state’s peach season. Retailers often participate by combining their campaign with the “Jersey Fresh” locally grown initiative.

The “Peach Party” promotions started five years ago, and three years ago, it added a peach pie contest to the campaign. The judging site is the Ramsey Farmers’ Market located at the Ramsey Train Station.

“We’re hoping to introduce the perfect peach pie,” said Adam. “And we’re hoping to get morning television show hosts to judge them. We will pick two winners; one from South Jersey and one from North Jersey. The winners get their choice of an overnight stay with dinner for two at an Atlantic City or Cape May hotel.”

The council and New Jersey peach growers continue to work hard to promote late season peaches. Adam said that there has been a mentality over the years that once school starts, people stop buying peaches and start buying apples.

“Growers continue to adjust their seasons to climate change, and they’re now producing peaches through late September,” she said. “Late-season peaches are really great varieties that are perfect for lunch boxes, deserts and inclusion in recipes.”