Late-season freeze devastates South Carolina peach crop - - Columbia, South Carolina


Late-season freeze devastates South Carolina peach crop

(Source: WIS) (Source: WIS)

EDGEFIELD COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Farmers across South Carolina are suffering devastating blows to their peach orchards, after an unusually late freeze last week.

There is more impacted than the fruit - there will be fewer jobs and millions of dollars lost. 

Where there were once bright, blooming pink peach buds at Titan Farms in Edgefield County, there's now bare, weathered trees. Workers once rushed to trim and care for the peach trees. Now, the orchards are still and quiet. 

Chalmers Carr owns the farm; after the freeze last week, when temperatures dipped down to 19 degrees, he's had to lay off 140 of his staff. He estimates about 85 percent or more of his peach harvest is dead in the bud. He held the meeting to make the announcement on Monday morning. 

“Oh, this is well into the millions of dollars lost. I mean, we would have shipped over two million boxes this year," Carr says.

There are another 370 legal migrant workers from Mexico who were set to come work the farm this summer, who will not be needed now. 

“It just, it kind of deflates you. You work so hard. Peaches…you got one shot at them a year," Carr says. 

He’s optimistic things can have a chance again next year, but this season she till loses money, staff, and the South Carolina staple.

"Well I mean, there’s a lot of things you go through, a lot of emotions. The first emotion you have as an employer is to your workers. You’ve got to take care of your workers and then you have your retailer partners. The other person who really loses out here is the South Carolina consumer," he says. 

Peach farms are a major economic driver in South Carolina, according to the Department of Agriculture. The industry employs at least 1,500 people and has a $300 million state economic impact.

South Carolina is second in peach production only to California. 

Carr says there will ultimately be fewer peaches in stores this summer unless supermarkets import them from orchards in places like California.

He had meetings with grocers like Walmart and others on Monday afternoon, to report there would be fewer peaches he could provide - if any at all. 

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