South Carolina Peach Industry Headed in Right Direction

 

Name: Lynn Chappel

City/State: Kline, South Carolina

Association: South Carolina Peach Council

Type of farming operation: 900 Peach Acres

 

Lynn Chappel raises peaches in, South Carolina and is current president of the South Carolina Peach Council. Chapel and her brother split the farming operation near Kline; he farms row crops, she manages and brokers 900 acres of peaches. Chappel’s decision to continue to work the peach operation created a unique situation when it comes to the rest of her family:

“I have a husband in Savannah Georgia, so after peach season I go there after peach season and am his office manager. When we got married we determined that I would come to the farm to work the peaches.”

On her own farm, and with other large fruit operations in the state, Chappel says that labor is by far the biggest challenge, as well as expense:
 

“Most of the commercial growers are with H2A labor, which is government guest worker program with the US Department of Labor Wage and Hour division. Everyone is legal, but we pay for their way to and from Mexico, we provide housing, we pay transportation to the grocery store, etc. Each year the wage rate goes up 5%. As the years go by it becomes a very expensive program, but on the other hand if INS comes to the farm, everyone is legal so we have no problems.”

As far as challenges facing growers in years to come, Chappel says each year presents weather challenges:
 

“Farming is always a gamble. This year we didn’t have enough cold hours for the later varieties to develop so there wont be an abundance of late peaches coming out of the South. We had a pretty good early crop, but the later varieties need more cold weather and we had a really mild winter here in the South.”
 

When it comes to the future of South Carolina peaches, Chappel feels that the industry in the Palmetto state is headed in the right direction:
 

“I think that the South Carolina peach is headed in the right direction. We have a reputation for being a flavorful peach and we are also logistically well located on the East Coast. With diesel fuel being high, it was cost prohibitive to ship a lot of peaches in from California, where we could deliver them in twelve hours. Also its good when you can pick a peach, pack a peach and have that peach on a truck and have it to its destination in fourteen hours. So our crop is very fresh when it gets to its destination.”
 

Chappel has served as president of the South Carolina Peach Council before, and this go round, she has a simple goal:
 

“We have a fund raiser each year. The farmers donate peaches to retailers and that is what funds our research and marketing. Times are not like they were back before 2009, so we have scaled our costs down, yet we remain viable. I would like to see us be able to raise more money. But you have to change with the times, so we went from a three day event to an afternoon/evening event to cut some costs. I would like to see it all remain viable. We have to fund research. Clemson is doing a great job in testing new varieties for the South. With marketing we also spend money on that.”
 

Chapel has this advice for consumers:
 

“Nothing is fresher or finer than a South Carolina peach. Look for the sticker that says the peach is from South Carolina at your local retailer. If it doesn’t have that sticker, tell your produce manager you would rather have a peach grown locally.”
 

Lynn Chappel, president of the South Carolina Peach Council. For all our state association presidential profiles,click here.
 


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