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Peach growers prepare for a challenging harvest

With a good crop of peaches being thinned for size and quality, New Jersey growers — like most farmers — are working under new protocols to protect farm workers’ health during the virus pandemic while using stringent food safety regulations.   

“Growing peaches is a labor intensive process, said Santo John Maccherone, owner of Circle M Farms near Salem, NJ. “We strive to grow the very best peaches without cutting corners on the process of food safety and a safe environment for our workers.“

Maccherone, who farms peaches and asparagus with his son, John, is expecting a good crop of peaches with a few holes in the sequence of harvest because of the low temperatures during the flower bloom.  Circle M offers white and yellow-fleshed peaches and nectarines as well as plums, flat “donut” peaches, and peach cider and salsa.  

“It’s a long season from when we start bloom until we harvest, pack and ship the last box of peaches in September.   Lots of things can happen to change our situation during this period,” said Maccherone

Matt Duffield of Duffield Farms in Sewell is anticipating a normal harvest season with the first peaches being harvested in early July.  “We have enough fruit in some blocks to warrant heavy thinning to not only reduce crop load but to also improve size and quality,” he said. The Duffield family grows many crops, including peaches on their 400 acres centered in Washington Township, Gloucester County.

“We have white- and yellow-fleshed peaches and some nectarines, and an excellent water supply to grow and market large highly colored and flavored fruit,” said Duffield.  “Most of our fruit is marked locally at our farmers markets so tree ripeness is of utmost importance with all the fruit we grow.”

One of the largest marketers of peach and nectarines in the state is Sunny Valley International in Glassboro.   Bonnie Lundblad of Sunny Valley expects to be marketing a respectable crop of peaches and nectarines this season.  “We will be selling peaches and nectarines under the Just-Picked, Atlantic Sunrise, and Jersey Fruit labels from very early July well into September," she said.

Lundblad was recently elected chair of the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council, which is  leading a team of growers and marketers developing plans for the peach marketing season.  “We are finalizing plans for promoting our peach crop in 2020 with emphasis on retail promotions in the state of NJ,” said Lundblad. “We have excellent packing and storage facilities in New Jersey to meet retailer demands for a wide variety of peaches and packaging meeting all food safety requirements in great working conditions for peach workers. We foresee growers working very closely with state and local officials following protocols and protecting all workers.”

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