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New Jersey growers anticipate excellent peach crop

Generations of New Jersey family farmers have been growing peaches since the 1600s, making Jersey Fresh peaches a locally grown fruit hundreds of years before carbon footprints or food miles became a concern.

Locally grown Jersey Fresh peaches are now harvested within 250 miles of 45 million consumers. New Jersey has a market advantage because peaches grown closer to their market have a high sugar-to-acid ratio, making for better quality because they can be picked closer to full tree ripeness. With centuries of experience, newer varieties, solid marketing support, innovative packaging and high standards for food safety and traceability, New Jersey peach growers continue to offer some of the finest peaches available.

Thanks to favorable peach-growing conditions, New Jersey is once again expecting an excellent crop this year. Like most recent New Jersey winters, there were plenty of chill hours and just the right amount of moisture allowing for the state’s peach trees to remain dormant and rest comfortably. Without frost problems, there was a good bud set and normal bloom thinning. Presented with just the right opportunity to improve the crop with hand thinning, New Jersey growers were able to set up conditions for nicely sized fruit.

The excitement about the 2012 Jersey Fresh peach crop has begun early this year. The first Jersey Fresh peaches were packed June 25, about seven to 10 days earlier than most seasons. But the growers were pleased to report that there would be a full crop in steady volumes with excellent color in all varieties. Sentry is the first major variety being packed. This year, you can expect sweet peaches thanks to unseasonably warm weather and moderate rain. The New Jersey peaches now being packed have a high average count of about 10 to 12 on the Brix scale. With good color and drip irrigation to control moisture and size, the quality should remain high throughout the season.

Heavy commercial volumes of Jersey Fresh peaches can be expected beginning around July 5-7. Steady heavy volumes should last from around July 10 until the end of August. New Jersey will soon be moving into the Red Haven and Loring varieties followed by the Belair variety. With the end of July, the Bounty varieties will be available, offering nicely sized fruit. The Bounty variety will be followed by the Crest Haven variety, which also includes the Gloria variety of peach. Then it’s Jersey Queen season, which includes the Fayette variety. The Encore and Laurol varieties will wrap up the season, and the New Jersey peach harvest is expected to end in early or mid-September.

Jersey Fresh white peaches should start around July 10 with promotable volumes the week of July 15. The White Ladies, Klondike and Lady Nancy varieties will be available, with the Snow Giant finishing the season the last week of August or the first week of September.

Nectarines should begin harvesting the week of July 25, with promotable volumes through the first half of August and concluding at the end of that month. The Eastern Glo, Sun Glo and Fantasia will once again be the dominant nectarine varieties this season in New Jersey.

The standard pack for New Jersey peaches continues to be the half-bushel box volume filled pack, averaging 25 pounds, depending on fruit size. But New Jersey’s peach growers can offer a full range of packing choices to meet any retailer request or market need. Tray packs are available for ready-to-eat peaches and standard larger fruit, which are both expected to move well this year. Club packs will be available in four and six pound boxes. One of the state’s largest packers will be offering retailers a special “Grab and Go” consumer pack. These packs will offer colorful, high-quality graphics and average about two to three pounds of peaches at an attractive price point ready for consumer impulse purchases.

For special orders, the “Premium Jersey Fresh Grade” peach grade will once again be available this year. In order to be eligible to ship using the premium grade, each pallet must be certified by a USDA-qualified inspector to have been picked, packed and shipped within seven days, and all peaches on the pallet must meet the “US Fancy” grade.

About two-thirds of all New Jersey peach growers have received third-party food safety audit certifications and most now pack and label with GS1 data bar scanable Product Look Up (PLU) Codes to allow for quicker check-outs and better inventory control.

For more than 60 years, the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council has conducted successful marketing and promotional campaigns for the advancement of the peach industry in New Jersey. In support of the 2012 season, the council will be continuing its print advertising and online marketing through its expanding website and other Internet resources such as YouTube.

The council promotes the quality of locally grown Jersey Fresh peaches to wholesalers, retailers and consumers through the compilation and distribution of a Wholesale Peach Buyers’ Guide and with hosting various media events, retail promotions, consumer education and information, industry and consumer print advertising, website information, and through personal contacts. The council is continuing its extensive industry outreach programs with in-store promotion and sampling events, and even with scheduled in-store appearances by the New Jersey Peach Queen. For more information about peach promotion activities, contact Jerry Frecon at the Gloucester County Extension Office at 856/307-6450.

Jersey Fresh peach point-of-sale advertising is available from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. Jersey Fresh peach price cards, consumer peach storage and nutritional information take-one packs and large, brightly colored two-foot-by-three-foot “Born to be Keen, Jersey Fresh Peaches” posters are all available for free. For a copy of the 2012 New Jersey Peach Buyers Guide, peach point-of-sale items or any other Jersey Fresh point-of-sale advertising items, please contact Logan Brown at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture at 609/292-8856 or via email at logan.brown@ag.state.nj.us.

Logan Brown is the economic development representative of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.