North Carolina's peach industry has been shrinking, but farmers still growing the summer fruit hope a little extra money will turn things around. Over the next month, they'll be voting on a self-imposed assessment ranging from $100 to $350 a year to help fund peach research and marketing.
People can tend to forget North Carolina has peaches. Georgia calls itself the Peach State, and South Carolina's so proud of its peaches it has a big water tower in the shape of one. California is actually the biggest peach producer--and if all you've ever had is a West Coast peach from the grocery store, you are missing out, says Art Williams, who runs a peach farm in Eagle Springs, N.C., called Kalawi Farms.
The China Pearl peach variety was developed in North Carolina. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and North Carolina State University do peach research, but farmers are worried that will end as budget cuts and staff retirements ripple through the system. So the North Carolina Peach Growers Society--of which Williams is vice president--has proposed an annual assessment of up to $350 on all 112 commercial peach growers in the state, depending on orchard size. The money will fund research and marketing.
Most other crops in North Carolina have an annual assessment, but peaches haven't had one since 2006. For this new fee to kick in, two-thirds of the growers will need to vote in favor of it.