Say Hello to the Real Peach State
October 18, 2017

Say Hello to the Real Peach State

Central California Beats Georgia as Top Peach Producer
Drive almost anywhere in Atlanta, Georgia, and you are likely to be confounded by dozens of streets with the name “peach” in them. Peachtree Street is a major thoroughfare downtown, but you can also find Peachtree Lane, Peachtree Boulevard, Peachtree Avenue, Peachtree Circle, Peachtree…well you get the idea. Georgia is all about its peaches. There’s one on the state license plate. It’s even called “The Peach State.”

So, it might be surprising to know that another state much farther west actually produces and sells more peaches. As you might have guessed, the honor belongs to California. A Peach and Nectarine Report found that the state produced 95% of the country’s peaches in 2014. As you also might have guessed, the top producing counties in California are in the San Joaquin Valley, including Fresno, Stanislaus, and Tulare Counties.

History of Peaches in California
California’s quiet love affair with peaches began as far back as the 1700s, when Spanish padres introduced peach trees to the region. Early settlers also brought them from the East Coast. There were periods of booms and busts after that, but the modern peach industry didn’t really take hold until the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, making it easier to ship them out across the country. Today, California peaches yield 15-20 tons per acre.

Varieties of Peaches
Peaches are divided into two broad classes, based on how easy it is to separate the fruit from the stone (or pit) in the center:

  • Clingstone (or cling)– With clings, the stone is difficult to detach. They are ideal for eating and processing.
  • Freestone– These peaches have a loose stone so the fruit falls right off the pit. They can be eaten fresh, but are also great for canning and freezing.

Home to the nation’s largest stone fruit growers
While Georgia may try to claim they are peach state, I think we know the truth. Not only do we produce more peaches than they do, but we are home to some of the nation’s largest peach growers, and we take pride in that. Wawona Frozen Foods and Gerawan Farming ring a bell? Yup, they’re from our backyard. What about Brandt Farms and HMC Farms? Yup, from our backyard too. We could go on name dropping, but we think you get the point…

California…the State of Fruit and Nuts
It isn’t just peaches that are grown in Central California. The San Joaquin Valley agricultural industry includes over 350 commodities and produces almost half of the fruit and nuts you find in stores throughout the country.

Here are some staggering statistics included in the California Agricultural Statistic Review 2016 Report.

  • California produces nearly 16.2 million tons of fruits & nuts
  • California accounted for almost 60% of non-citrus fruit & nuts production
  • California accounts for over 40% of citrus production

What are the Top Crops?
Almonds are the #1 crop in the state. California produces 67% of the almonds in the entire country, and 88% of those come from the San Joaquin Valley. Coming in at #2 are grapes, and again, 56% of those produced come from one place…you guessed it…the San Joaquin Valley. If you love pistachios, you can thank Central California for 98% of them.

Other Big Stats:

  • California accounts for nearly all US production of almonds, pistachios, walnuts, dates, figs, kiwi, olives, dried plums, and raisins
  • 80% - 95% of apricots, lemons, mandarins, nectarines, plums, and strawberries
  • Nearly 60% of raspberries & avocados

As a slate.com article put it,“No other state, or even a combination of states, can match California’s output per acre.” 

The sheer volume and scope of the agricultural industry in California and the San Joaquin Valley is even more incredible because the state didn’t start out this way.

“In the 1860s, the state’s leading crops were wheat and corn. Beginning in the 1880s, however, the state ceased to be the nation’s breadbasket and became its fruit and vegetable basket.”

From peach cobbler and strawberry shortcake to guacamole and honey-roasted almonds, chances are whatever you’re eating or snacking on came from an extraordinary place that feeds the entire country…Central California and the San Joaquin Valley.

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Photos by Jennifer Pallian and Ian Baldwin on Unsplash

 

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