The unseasonably warm winter of 2022-23 damaged 80%+ of Georgia’s peach harvest
By Sabrina Cupit, Blue Tannery,2023-06-02
(CRAWFORD COUNTY, Ga.) — After an unseasonably warm winter and cold snap in March, WSB’s Sabrina Cupit reports that peach farms across the Piedmont region of Georgia have lost almost an entire years’ crop, some 80-90% of their normal harvest.
Lee Dickey, of Dickey Farms in Musella, Georgia, told Sabrina that “As a people that are used to being able to always get Georgia peaches at their local farmers market, or at the grocery store, you know, it’s going to be a little bit fewer and far between.”
Farmers’ markets and grocery stores will still do their best to stock the aisles with peaches, but chances are that they’ll have to import them from states a bit further away than Georgia. These peaches will taste just as great, Dickey says, but may not be quite as pretty as the ones we’re used to.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suspected as far back as October 2022 that the winter months would be warm, and their predictions were confirmed by late March . While some places in the country, particularly in northern and western states remained cooler than average, states across the Sun Belt experienced higher-than-average temperatures by up to 7 ° Fahrenheit.
Atlanta clocked its second-warmest winter on record, with the hottest being the winter of 2016-17.
As average winter temperatures continue to climb as part of global climate change, farmers across the Southeast must reckon with the changes that could be on the horizon for their ability to grow and distribute their crops.
Pam Knox, an agricultural climatologist at the University of Georgia, told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that a warming climate means the conditions that ruined this year’s peach crop are not an anomaly.
“Winter is the season that is getting the warmest most quickly,” Knox said. Farmers have begun experimenting with peach varieties that are hardier and require less time in the cold. As the state, and entire globe, continue to warm, farmers will need to continue to adapt.
WSB anchor/health reporter Sabrina Cupit contributed to reporting for this story.