SC Peach History & Field Day

 

Hey, I’m Desmond Layne, Peach Specialist at Clemson University.  Welcome to the Clemson Tiger Peach Network.

Welcome back to Everything About Peaches.  In our sixth episode, we will share with you about the history of the peach industry in South Carolina.  Also, we will take you to a recent peach grower field day where farmers got to see, taste, and learn about over 40 different kinds of peaches that can be grown here in South Carolina.

People should be excited about peaches because South Carolina is the number 2 peach producer in the United States, more than Georgia.  In fact, this year we’re producing about double the volume that Georgia is producing.  It’s our signature summer fruit crop.  It’s about a 50 million dollar a year industry and it employs more than a thousand people.  We’ve been growing peaches commercially in South Carolina since the mid-1800s, and the railroad industry actually was closely tied to peach production.  In fact, most of the peach packing sheds were built right alongside the railroad so that peaches could get on the railcars and they could be shipped long distances before even the major highways were in place.   So we’ve been commercially growing peaches for over 150 years.  It’s a well-developed industry in terms of the culture and the people, and many of our peach growers are third, fourth, fifth generation peach growers in South Carolina.

I’m Desmond Layne, I’m the Peach Specialist at Clemson University, and I’m a Professor in the Horticulture Department.  We’re having our annual fruit field day today here out at the Musser Fruit Research Farm in Seneca.  The purpose of our field day is to showcase the different types of peaches that come ripe at a particular time during the growing season.  And today we’ve got about 40 different types of peaches that the farmers can come out and look at and see how they perform relative to each other to get an idea of the wide array of different peach types that can be grown in South Carolina.  The goal of the field day is to help growers see that there’s a tremendous amount of variety in different peach types that can be grown in South Carolina.  We have peaches from New Jersey, we have peaches from Georgia, from North Carolina, from California, from Michigan, and they can look and see how these actually perform here in South Carolina and say, “Maybe I want to try this one on my farm.  Maybe it’ll fill a niche for me where I don’t have a cultivar that performs particularly well.”  

So they’ll actually be able to taste all these and look at them side-by-side about 40 different types.  I’d like growers to be encouraged that there’s lots of possibilities and that maybe they’ve been growing some varieties over the years that they just aren’t happy with the way they’re performing, and hopefully they’ll be encouraged as they see all the different variety that we have that there’s lots of choices actually.  And we test them here for the grower.  We look at them for several years to see how well they perform and then we make recommendations based on what perform the best so that hopefully they won’t make a mistake when they plant a new orchard.  

We have a new website and it’s called Everything About Peaches.  You can just go to the Clemson Homepage, www.clemson.edu/peach and then you’ll get there.  At that website we have information for the commercial peach grower, for the backyard peach grower, and then just for anybody who wants general information about peaches: recipes, how to can them, all those kinds of things.  Some features of the website is we have some educational videos.  We’ve got 5 videos that we just did this summer covering everything from how to pick the best peach, how to determine when they’re ripe, and the top secret peach.  All kinds of fun and also educational pieces that I think people will enjoy.  Besides that we have educational articles that are written for the grower.  We have a link to our peach variety database where they can see how all these varieties perform.  We’ve got about 350 different varieties of peaches that we’re looking at here at the University farm and they can see what they look like and how they’ve performed over the last say 10 years or so.  So lots of good information for the South Carolina peach grower.  

Our goal with the website was to sort of have a one-stop shop for peach information.  Whether you’re just a person who’s curious, or you’re a professional peach grower.  And the information is accessible worldwide because it’s on the Web.  The videos are up on YouTube; we’ve had over almost 4000 hits on our videos just in the last month.  They’re being viewed all around the world.  We’ve been contacted by a consultant in Afghanistan; he wants to get these videos translated into the Afghani language so that they can use it to teach the Afghan farmers who grow peaches.  The videos have been viewed lots of different countries around the world.  We’ve gotten feedback from Chile, from Brazil, from Italy, from Spain, from Canada, so there’s a lot of interest and that’s one of the beauties of the Web is that people can access it anywhere.  And these are general type peach things that would be applicable anywhere.  One of the goals of our website is just to get people excited about peaches.  I mean, this is peach season right now; we’re in the heart of peach season in South Carolina.  And so we want to provide a place where people can come and they can get the best possible information so that not only they know how to pick the right peach in a grocery store, or when they go to a roadside market, or they’re out doing a pick-your-own, so that they’ll have the best possible eating experience and grow to be a real peach lover.

If you’d like to learn more about peaches, please visit our Everything About Peaches website, that’s www.clemson.edu/peach.  Whether you’re a commercial grower, a backyard grower, or a consumer, we have lots of information to whet your peach appetite.