2017-04-05 / Front Page

Freeze damages crop at Ogeechee Peaches

By Deborah Bennett
Millen News editor


Linda Newton of Ogeechee Peaches inspects the blossoms on peach trees in their orchard. 
(Staff photo by Deborah Bennett) Linda Newton of Ogeechee Peaches inspects the blossoms on peach trees in their orchard. (Staff photo by Deborah Bennett) Warmer than normal weather in January and February can be blamed for creating an early spring that affected the crop of Ogeechee Peaches, located on Old Louisville Road in Jenkins County.

The business sustained major damage to its orchard on March 15-16 from a late freeze, but owners, Rodney and Linda Newton, remain optimistic about this season’s crop.

“We grow 13 varieties of peaches and know that we have lost all of one variety. The ones that were already blooming are the ones that were most affected. We’re hoping to still have a crop from the other varieties, though it will definitely be less than normal,” said Linda.

“We also have two varieties of nectarines. One variety was lost, but we will have some of the second variety,” she noted.

The Newtons have approximately 1,500 peach trees in their orchards with harvest time running from mid-May to the second or third week in August.

“We know it will be a little later this year, though” Linda said.

If there is a bright side to the loss in the peach crop, Linda said it is the fact that they don’t have to thin the trees as usual this year. The trees had already been pruned prior to the cold weather, but not thinned.

“Thinning is a big job, and it doesn’t look like we’ll have to do that this year,” she joked.

Rodney and Linda manage the peach orchard with little outside help, and Linda says it keeps them both busy.

“We had an order last year for 60 cases of peaches for a North Georgia customer, and Rodney and I got out here about 7 a.m. and had the peaches picked by 9 a.m. We make a good team,” Linda said.

The Newtons’ other crops, blackberries, muscadines, and vegetables, were not affected by the freeze.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said recently, “It’s a little early to predict how great the loss will be for some crops, but there is no denying the financial strain on these families by the this event. I think it is safe to say that the losses will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The Newtons remain optimistic that their orchards will not be as affected as they first thought.

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