Even though Mother Nature wasn't kind to the peach crops earlier this year, fresh fruit grown in South Carolina is available in Aiken.
Tim Bledsoe and his family opened Dan's Peach Stand next to Tyler's Tire & Auto Center on Whiskey Road on May 29, which was only one day later than its season debut in 2013. Their Bud's Peach Stand is scheduled to open across from Chick-fil-A on Whiskey Road next week.
“We probably could have opened Dan's Peach Stand a week and a half earlier, but we wouldn't have had enough peaches then for us to be there every day,” Bledsoe said.
Last week, the Bledsoes were selling the Spring Prince variety of clingstone peaches. On Monday, they began bringing Empress clingstone peaches to Dan's Peach Stand.
“The early peaches aren't as good as the later peaches, but we haven't had any fresh peaches in seven or eight months, so that makes them special,” Tim Bledsoe said. “The Empress peaches are the best of our early ones. They have flesh that melts in your mouth and are a little sweeter than the Spring Princes.”
Bledsoe and his wife, Ruth, team with their sons, Dan and Bud, to run DABB Farms in Johnston. DABB has a three-acre peach orchard where more than 20 varieties of peaches are grown. The family also has access to more of the juicy fruit through a sharecropping arrangement with another peach farmer.
During a freeze in March that killed many of the earlier ripening of peaches, “we were fortunate because we only lost all of one variety, Sure Prince, I believe,” Tim Bledsoe said.
The Bledsoes increased some of their prices this year. A bag of peaches that brought $10 in 2013 is now selling for $11. A tub is $14 compared to $13 last season. The $5 charge for a small tray didn't change.
“We probably should have raised our prices before now because fuel and fertilizer costs are outrageous,” Tim Bledsoe said. “We didn't really do it (increase prices) because of the bad weather.”
The Gurosik's produce stand near the intersection of Rudy Mason Parkway, East Pine Log Road and Charleston Highway also has fresh peaches that were grown in the Johnston area. On Monday, they were selling for $1.69 a pound.
“We're getting a good, steady supply, and pretty soon, we're going to be getting a bigger variety,” said Shane Pyles, who works at the stand. “We're probably going through six baskets a day now.”
Linda Van Gee of Williston was happy to see that fresh peaches were available at the Gurosik's stand, which she visits frequently during every-other-day trips to Aiken.
“I've been waiting for the peaches, but I'm going to wait a little longer to buy them because the later ones are sweeter,” she said.
In early May, South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers said the March freeze killed roughly 30 percent of this year's South Carolina peach crop and would cause revenue losses of at least $27 million in the Palmetto State.
South Carolina ranks second nationwide in peach production. It is second only to California. Georgia ranks third.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Dan Bledsoe, left, Lisa Easler, Ruth Bledsoe, Tim Bledsoe and Bud Bledsoe are selling fresh peaches at Danís Peach Stand next to Tylerís Tire & Auto Center on Whiskey Road.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Fresh peaches like these are being sold at Danís Peach Stand next to Tylerís Tire & Auto Center of Whiskey Road.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Sara Barber, left, looks on while Sam Cato tastes a peach at Danís Peach Stand next to Tylerís Tire & Auto Center on Whiskey Road. Tim Bledsoe, right, cuts another piece of peach for Cato.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Augustin Cervantes sets out fresh peaches at the Gurosikís stand near the corner of East Pine Log Road and Charleston Highway.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Fresh peaches like these are being sold at Danís Peach Stand next to Tylerís Tire & Auto Center off Whiskey Road.×