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Vast majority of Jaemor's peach buds make it through Monday's frost

POSTED: April 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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Although temperatures dipped below freezing Monday night, the peach buds at Jaemor Farm still hold the promise of a fruitful summer harvest.

Drew Echols, an owner of Jaemor Farm orchards near Lula, said he feared the worst for the family-owned peach crop Monday when the National Weather Service issued a freeze warning for areas from Macon to Tennessee. Forecasters called for temperatures in the high 20s Monday night.

Echols said multiple thermometers gauged temperatures in the budding peach orchards as low as 21 degrees Monday night.

Despite the spring frost, Echols said nearly all of the 5,500 peach trees sustained only minor damage, and none of the 30 varieties of Jaemor Farm peach trees were wiped out.

Last year, Jaemor Farm lost about $500,000 worth of its peach crop after below freezing temperatures on April 10 decimated budding peaches.

"We were thinking the worst, but we started riding around and we found live little peaches," Echols said.

Any real frost damage from the freeze Monday will become evident in mid-April, Echols said, estimating that about 10 percent of the crop will be lost this year.

"To have around 90 percent of a crop is phenomenal really," Echols said. "If you’ve got 90 percent of a peach crop in North Georgia, you’re all right."

In April, Echols said crews at Jaemor Farm will begin counting how many peaches are on the trees to determine if any of the varieties may not produce the steady harvesting expected to span from June to mid-September.

"Right now, (the peach blooms) are real tender," Echols said. "It’s really a miracle crop, considering how cold it got last night. When it gets 21 degrees when peaches are in full bloom, you’re not supposed to wake up and find them alive."

Echols said he and farm workers placed six giant fans amongst the peach trees Monday, and stayed awake nearly all night running the fans used to draw warm air down to the orchard. As the frost began to thaw around 10 a.m. Tuesday, it became evident that the damage was minor.

"It’s not something that’s really going to affect production," Echols said. "We can’t stand to lose any more than we lost last night. We’ve got to keep our fingers crossed for another two maybe three weeks before we’re totally in the clear."



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