Freeze devastates South Carolina peach crop

Farmers in the Edgefield/Saluda area of South Carolina tell NewsChannel 6 a freeze last week devastated their crop.
Farmers in the Edgefield/Saluda area of South Carolina tell NewsChannel 6 a freeze last week devastated their crop.

WARD, S.C. (WJBF) – Farmers in the Edgefield/Saluda area of South Carolina tell NewsChannel 6 a freeze last week devastated their crop.

They say they are losing the time and money they’ve put into their crops, as well as profits. They say hundreds will be out of work.

Last week, Titan Farm’s Peach trees were in full bloom. This week, they’re gone.

“Thursday morning was quite devastating to our farm,” said Chalmers Carr, who owns and operates Titan Farms. “We probably lost 85 to 90 percent our peaches that morning with our temperatures dropping down to a record total of 19 degrees.”

The company has about 5,000 acres of trees. They had hoped to save some of them by spraying sugar on them, which is supposed to lower the freezing point by several degrees.

“It was meant to give us three to four degrees, and of course we needed ten to 12 degrees,” Carr said.

They usually bring in $30 million Carr says. This year he says they’re aiming to sell $3 million to $4 million worth of peaches locally.

But another local farmer isn’t so lucky.

“This crop’s over,” said Jimmy Forrest, owner of Dixie Belle Peaches.  “It’s 100 percent kill-out.”

However, Forrest’s and Carr’s farms have insurance. Forrest says his insurance will reimburse him about 60 percent of what he’s put into the crops, but he has no hope of bringing in a profit.

And he worries how this impact his relationship with his buyers.

“We’re not as reliable now because we can’t produce a crop for our buyers,” he said.

And no crop means no work for the hundreds of workers who come from Mexico to tend to these trees every year.

More than 500 Mexican workers planning to work at Titan this year will be out of their jobs. Forrest says he’s having to let go of about 250 workers from Mexico.

“It’s really bad for them and their families,” Forrest said. “Because they come here, we pay them $10.60-something an hour. They come here expecting, with a dream of making money to carry back to their families, and it’s really sad.”

He estimates only about ten percent of the Mexican workers he was planning to employ will be able to find work elsewhere in the U.S.

Both Forest and Carr say the loss of peaches and migrant workers will also hurt the local economy in the Edgefield Saluda areas this year.

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