The rustling in the trees tells you the peaches are ripe. Workers have begun to harvest early varieties around the Valley. Once the bins are full they'll be taken to the packing house. Local growers were concerned about the recent wet weather but say the first crop of the season looks good. Parlier grower Rod Milton said "well you never like to see rain when you're picking fruit, that's never a welcome thing to see but if you're gonna have it, the combination of the cold temps that we saw on Sunday and Monday were perfect. The quality of the fruit still looks very good. Strong. We're not seeing any softening."
Georgia may be known as the "peach state" but in reality, the Valley harvest helps California dwarf Georgia's production. Georgia grew 26-million pounds of freestone peaches in 2007. California growers like Milton dominate the U.S. market with 860-million pounds. Milton said "they really do and one thing you'll see in the south, they really promote their product. There's peach days in just about every one of the states."
California peaches obviously could use more promotion. California-grown fruits make up 70-percent of the entire fresh peach market. Some of the early peaches have begun to show up at farmers markets, where shoppers have begun to ask for stone fruit. Fresno farmer Claudia Sersland said "oh they've already started that yet. They aren't quite into the cycle of when local peaches come out but when the sun starts shining they think everything for the summer should be ready."
The stone fruit season lasts through summer with the harvest of not only peaches but nectarines, plums and pluots.
California is the top peach-producing state, followed by New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington and then Georgia.
The "peach state" actually saw a massive drop in peach production last year, from 82-million pounds to just 26-million.