April 16, 2014

Elyria
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Not so peachy: Winter cold snap takes bite out of local peach harvest

As local growers begin to open their farm stands this month, at least one crop will be in short supply.

A period of severe cold in January was devastating to Northeast Ohio’s peaches. Along the lakeshore in Lorain and Erie counties, fruit farmers estimate that they’ll only pick 25 to 50 percent of their crop. Less hardy than apples, pears and even plums, peach trees are vulnerable to below-zero temperatures. And even though the growing season has been ideal so far for other local fruits and vegetables, peaches didn’t have a fighting chance after the prolonged cold snap.

“We’re lucky we didn’t lose everything,” said David Miller, who owns and operates Miller Orchards in Amherst.

He said when the temperature gets to about 10 below zero, the cold air will kill the buds. Elevation and location also are factors.

Although Miller said he lost about 50 percent of his peach crop due to the winter freeze, he still expects to have enough peaches to go around.

“I don’t think it will affect prices,” Miller said. “There won’t be a shortage for consumers because stores can ship them from Pennsylvania and Michigan.”

Miller has about 120 acres of fruit, including apples, nectarines, pears and plums, and he is one of the state’s largest producers of cherries — which will be available for about one more week.

Spiegelberg Orchards in Lorain will have at least half of their typical peach yield, although apples will be plentiful, said owner Ken Spiegelberg.

“So far, it hasn’t affected prices, but it comes down to supply and demand.”

At Quarry Hill Orchards in Berlin Heights, owner Bill Gammie said he has about a 25 percent crop yield, most of which will be later variety peaches toward the end of the month and early September.

Gammie also produces a wide variety of apples and other fruit, and now operates a small winery with about 20 different kinds of fruit wine.

And for those in the eastern part of the county, Gammie is selling his fruit at the Crocker Park farmers market in Westlake.
“You’ve got to have a passion for growing peaches,” he said.

Want to go?

Spiegelberg Orchards
6161 Middle Ridge Road, Lorain
(440) 233-6083

Miller Orchards
8763 Vermilion Road, Amherst
(440) 988-8405
www.millersapplehill.com

Quarry Hill Orchards
8403 Mason Road, Berlin Heights
(419) 588-2858
www.quarryhillorchards.com

For the location of orchards and farm markets in the region, visit www.ohioproud.org.

Contact Amanda Nagy at 329-7155 or anagy@chroniclet.com.