Early harvest gives farmers a boost

After a mild winter, South Carolina peach farmers are off to a great start, but their season will be shorter than ever.

Ridge Spring is an area responsible for rolling out more than 80% of South Carolina peaches and this year's harvest came earlier than ever before.

"We're about 2/3 of the way through," said Jimmy Forrest, who owns Dixie Belle Peaches. "Nice crop, prices have been good."

Forrest says the mild winter didn't put the typical freeze on his fruit, so harvest time got bumped up.

"It shortened the crop," Forrest said. "It made the crop earlier; we pick peaches earlier this year than we ever have. We're going to finish earlier than we ever have."

Forrest says it will cost him some of his usual late-season peaches, but he says that's not so bad.

This year, Forrest got a lot of help from the skies out west putting South Carolina growers on the profitable end of supply and demand.

"California's had a smaller crop," Forrest said. "Smallest crop they've had in some three or four decades."

And that's good news for Dixie Belle and other peach growers in South Carolina who are still trying to get over a disastrous season in 2010.

"We're trying to crawl out of that hole," Forrest said. "Thank God this has been a good year that we can make a stride toward coming back."

Even though the season is just beginning, Forrest knows the game's not over yet.

"I can say we've had a good start. It's kind of like the football season," Forrest said. "We're 8-0 and we're not through. These last couple of weeks will make or break the season."