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Knotts Island Peach Farmer

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 9.38.40 AMWe came across a great article by Jeff Hampton of The Virginian-Pilot. Here are some quick highlights from the article.

Peach season is here, and North Carolina experts predict the harvest will be a good one. Growers in the state produce between 10 million and 11 million pounds a year, ranking 13th in the country, according to the National Peach Council. The state produced about 35 million pounds a year in the early 1990s. California dominates the industry, with a harvest of 688 million pounds in 2012.

Martin Vineyards and Orchard on Knotts Island is the last of the peach orchards in Currituck County. About 25 varieties, including Flamin’ Fury, red haven and ruby prince, will ripen in turn over the next three months. Second-generation orchard owner David Martin sells them to roadside stands in Virginia Beach and offers self-picking.

In the 1970s and ’80s, at least five large orchards prospered in southern Currituck County mainland. Many sold the produce at farmers markets lining U.S. Route 158, the main thoroughfare to the Outer Banks.

Raising peaches is a labor of love, he said, and not a big moneymaker for the amount of labor involved.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Grandy said. “Year-round.”

In the spring, Martin thinned his 4,000 trees using a Wiffle bat to knock out thick clusters of peaches, leaving room for the rest to swell from the tree’s nourishment. He works at it seven days a week, pruning limbs, spraying for disease and warding off insect infestations. Stink bugs are especially nasty and hard to get rid of, he said. Coyote puppies constantly chew at the plastic pipes along the ground used for irrigation.

As many as 200 people drive up the long road to the farm on a summer picking day.

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