What Peaches? In Georgia, Blueberries Now Rule

Growers made $94M off blueberries, $30M off peaches in 2012

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jul 23, 2013 12:58 PM CDT

(Newser) – There are few things as quintessentially Deep South as a Georgia peach, whose image appears on state license plates, "Welcome to Georgia" billboards, and road signs. There's just one problem: Blueberries are Georgia's most lucrative fruit crop, by far. In a little-noticed development, the value of blueberry production in Georgia beat the peach crop in 2005—and the gap has grown even bigger since then, according to USDA surveys. Blueberries generated an estimated $94 million for Georgia growers in 2012, to peaches' nearly $30 million. And Georgia isn't even the biggest US peach producer: It's regularly beat by California and neighboring South Carolina.

The rise of the blueberry was driven by a combination of supply-and-demand economics coupled with a good growing environment (blueberry-killing frosts are rare, for instance). Major blueberry producers, particularly in Michigan, wanted to get berries on supermarket shelves earlier in the year. They signed deals with growers in Georgia since the state starts harvesting its berries in April, ahead of Florida and California. Their move came as the Peach State was looking for replacements for traditional Southern crops such as tobacco and timber. "It's surprising around the country how many people don't realize Georgia grows blueberries," says a blueberry farmer. Still, "I don't foresee Georgia changing to the blueberry state."

In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, ripe blueberries pile up inside a bucket in the pick-your-own field at Foxbrier Farm, in Chattahoochee Hill Country, Ga. While Georgia is officially known as the Peach State, blueberry production has eclipsed the state's production of peaches. Federal surveys show the value of...
In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, ripe blueberries pile up inside a bucket in the pick-your-own field at Foxbrier Farm, in Chattahoochee Hill Country, Ga. While Georgia is officially known as the...   (Jaime Henry-White)
In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, Anna Baldwin, 8, drops ripe blueberries into a bucket in the pick-your-own field at Foxbrier Farm, in Chattahoochee Hill Country, Ga.
In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, Anna Baldwin, 8, drops ripe blueberries into a bucket in the pick-your-own field at Foxbrier Farm, in Chattahoochee Hill Country, Ga.   (Jaime Henry-White)
In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, blueberries ripen on a branch in the pick-your-own field at Foxbrier Farm, in Chattahoochee Hill Country, Ga.
In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, blueberries ripen on a branch in the pick-your-own field at Foxbrier Farm, in Chattahoochee Hill Country, Ga.   (Jaime Henry-White)
In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, Meredith James, 7, left, and sister Grace Katherine James, 9, look for ripe blueberries in the pick-your-own field at Foxbrier Farm, Ga.
In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, Meredith James, 7, left, and sister Grace Katherine James, 9, look for ripe blueberries in the pick-your-own field at Foxbrier Farm, Ga.   (Jaime Henry-White)
In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, Grace Katherine James, 9, left, and friend Anna Baldwin, 8, look for ripe blueberries in the pick-your-own field at Foxbrier Farm, in Chattahoochee Hill Country, Ga. While Georgia is officially known as the Peach State, blueberry production has eclipsed the state's production of...
In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, Grace Katherine James, 9, left, and friend Anna Baldwin, 8, look for ripe blueberries in the pick-your-own field at Foxbrier Farm, in Chattahoochee Hill Country,...   (Jaime Henry-White)
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