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Peach production sees dramatic decrease

June 27, 2013

Joe Mitcham, owner of Mitcham Farms, stands in front of his peach orchard. Mitcham Farms did not see the dramatic decrease in production which Matlock Farms experienced due to weather. – Tech Talk Photo File

 

PAUL HARRIS
Staff Reporter

 

The heat is now here in full force but it does not mean all is well for local peach farmers. In late March, frozen nights affected the yield of this year’s present peach crops.

 

Jimmy Matlock, owner of Matlock Farms in Monroe, suffered an abundant loss due to late season freezes, he said.

 

“That cold weather that kept coming back around wiped out my entire peach crop,” Matlock said.

 

The annual Louisiana Peach Festival was recently held in Ruston and Matlock Farms wasn’t able to provide any peaches or peach products, Matlock said.

 

“I only sell what I produce so I wasn’t be able to participate this year because of lack of production,” Matlock said. “I have 875 peach trees and over 95 percent of them were damaged.”

 

Matlock said once a peach has developed it can only withstand about four hours of freezing temperatures before becoming frozen itself. Once this has happened, it is no longer available for harvest.

 

Matlock will also suffer a financial loss due to the affected crop, he said.

 

“A few small freezes will leave a big hole in a farmer’s pocket,” Matlock said. “I suppose I’ll lose around $30,000-$35,000 simply because of the weather.”

 

Ruston native Rebecca Lonadier felt more concern about the farmers than the availability of Ruston-grown peaches.

 

“I just know it has to be a challenge to have a majority of your income reliant on Mother Nature, especially living in Louisiana because our weather is so unpredictable,” Lonadier said.

 

The lack of production of peaches will also mean no by-products that are made with the peaches as the main ingredients, Matlock said.

 

“I also won’t be able to produce my peach relish, jelly, marmalades or salsa, which is usually a good seller for us,” Matlock said.

 

Joe Mitcham, owner of Mitcham Farms, which has been in Lincoln Parish since 1947, didn’t suffer quite as much loss as Matlock.

 

“We have about 2,600 peach trees here and I’d say about 600 were affected by those late freezes in March,” Mitcham said.

 

Only two of the 18 varieties of peaches produced by Mitcham Farms were affected, Mitcham said.

 

“You start pruning your peach trees in the months of December, January and February,” Matlock said. “We begin to use fertilizer on our trees in March and the blooms begin mid May. Around mid September, we make our final cuts to stimulate the last of new growth.”

 

It is never a good feeling knowing that you have been putting effort into something for months; and when the time comes, there is no output for your effort, Matlock said.

 

“That’s just how the ball falls sometimes and we will have to deal with it until next year,” Matlock said. “Man can never control the weather, all man can do is pray.”

 

Email comments to phh007@latech.edu.

 

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