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Watching the weather and waiting on peaches

The peach crops from the south have been slow because of a variety of weather problems, Jenny Schlecht learned. It was a good reminder that farming isn't easy whether you've got wheat fields or orchards.

A pile of peaches
Peaches are a little behind this year because of weather concerns across the South.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek
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"When can we get some peaches?" one of my kids asked a few weeks back.

I remember replying that fresh peaches from the South should be coming soon. Around mid to late July, we usually start buying boxes of peaches here and there. We eat them plain or with cream and sugar or baked into pie.

I don't buy peaches much out of season, because the prices and taste both are better this time of year. So, the few extra weeks of waiting to see big lugs of sweet, juicy peaches seemed too long to the kids.

But it did get me wondering what was delaying the deliveries. A quick look online showed problems with drought in Texas , drought followed by heavy rain in Arkansas , unprecedented rain in parts of California , late freezes in Virginia , hail in Oklahoma , and ongoing problems with warmer winters keeping trees from dormancy in Georgia .

My little foray into peach research was a good reminder for me of how dependent we are on weather and shipping and places far away for foods that we've come to expect.

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A lot of our diet comes from foods grown locally, because we raise meat, and potatoes and pastas are staples. But still, we rely on fruits and vegetables grown far from the prairie most of the year. Our garden helps out in late summer, but for the most part, our produce comes from farmers in other parts of the country or world.

Growing up on a farm and then marrying a farmer, I've had plenty of experience in watching the weather and wondering how it was going to impact our lives. Hail storms destroy fields, snow storms blanket cattle and droughts keep things from growing. Too wet of weather damages quality; so does too dry of weather.

We watch the forecast, wanting to know what's going to happen right where we are, without giving nearly as much thought as to what's happening in far flung places that bring us things like peaches and apples. We focus on how policymakers help our farmers and ranchers, often without giving as much thought to how they're helping those farmers far from us who grow crops that look nothing like those in our vast fields.

Read more of Jenny Schlecht's "The Sorting Pen"
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Now, more than ever, we can see how connected we are to agriculture not just in the U.S. but all over the world. The war in Ukraine has made our already volatile markets even more volatile, and we realize again — like we did a few years ago when the COVID-19 pandemic began — just how fragile our food system really is.

I'm thankful for the diverse foods that we have access to here in the northern Plains — things like oranges and peaches that never would grow here, as well as produce at times when we dip into a deep freeze.

We did get our box of peaches the other day. They seem like they'll be quite good when they finish ripening. I hope that the farmers who tended the trees and picked the fruit are having a good season and a good crop. Just as they rely on our part of the world for certain foods, we need those farmers to stay in business so we can get our peaches in the summer.

No matter where you are or what type of agriculture you're involved in, it's not easy. I'm glad I got the reminder that we're not the center of the ag world but just another part of it.

Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.

Opinion by Jenny Schlecht
Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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