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Bumper peach crop expected
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FORT VALLEY (AP) - The harvesting, packaging and selling of Georgia's peaches has begun, and growers are cautiously looking for a bumper crop this year.

Robert Dickey, owner of Dickey Farms in Musella, said conditions were so favorable that growers had to thin the crop.

"We've had to go through a lot of expense and trouble to take fruit off the tree, so they would get big," Dickey said. "If you leave too many peaches on the tree, they won't get big."

Dickey remains wary. "We may still have something that affects the crop, like a storm, windstorm or too much rain. But this is the first time in about six years that we've had a full crop," he said.

The early variety being sold at Dickey Farms is a red peach called flavor rich, Dickey said.

Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, agreed that's it's been a good year for growers.

"There were plenty of chill hours and sufficient rain," Hall said Thursday. "It's been perfect, weatherwise."

Early varieties usually become ripe in late May, and the state's last peaches usually ripen in late July, so it's too soon to make a yield estimate. Hall said that in 2008, the last year for which he had figures, Georgia's peach crop was worth about $48 million.

Duke Lane III, vice president of sales at Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, says the Georgia Peach Council created a campaign to help growers push local sales.

The campaign urges people to "always ask for Georgia peaches."

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