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Sunny Valley warms up with glowing Jersey peach harvest

Sunny Valley International — one of the larger shippers of New Jersey peaches — is expecting a full crop of yellow peaches that are on par in condition and quality with last year’s excellent harvest.

“The cold weather this winter had no impact on the crop,” said Bob Von Rohr, director of marketing and customer relations at Glassboro, NJ-based Sunny Valley International. He noted that the trees had an excellent bloom with a good crop set, setting the stage for a normal season movement expected to start the first week of July.

Sunny Valley is the exclusive agent for the Jersey Fruit Cooperative in Glassboro, under the Jersey Fruit label, and Larchmont Farms, based in Elmer, NJ, with the Just Picked label. It also represents Dixie Bell Peaches, the Ward, SC, grower of Dixie Bell label peaches. In New Jersey, its farms cover approximately 1,800 acres.

Eastern-Peaches-JPEG-029Sunny Valley International is expecting a full crop of New Jersey peaches this summer.All the labels are packed with GS1 Databar PLUs, and the packing is conducted at facilities with the latest equipment for handling stone fruit. In addition, all farms and facilities have food-safety programs that include third-party audits. Sunny Valley and its grower and packer partners are at the forefront of new technologies to improve operations efficiencies, including electronic size sorters for automated lot coding of boxes, computerized trace-back and trace-forward software, various EDI and web-based customer accounting interfaces, and web product updates.

Sunny Valley’s standard pack is the one-half bushel volume fill pack, but in recent years it has diversified into specialty packs, including tray packs, clamshell packs and other packaging configurations.

Von Rohr noted that consumers in the eastern half of the country prefer New Jersey peaches over their West Coast counterparts. “Because we are here on the East Coast, within a day’s drive, if not less, to the Boston/New England area and points down South, we can pick our peaches at a higher maturity rate because they are only going to travel 12 to 24 hours, vs. if they are picking stuff on the West Coast and sending it for five days. One has to be cognizant of how the peaches are going to last on a truck for five days, so there is a tendency to not pick them at full maturity,” Von Rohr said.

While the vast majority of Sunny Valley’s peach business is in the traditional yellow peaches, about 10 percent is from white peaches.

“White peaches start sometime in late July and run through early September,” Van Rohr said. “White peaches have a white flesh and less acidity than yellow peaches, so you taste more of the sweetness of the peach. Many consumers find them more sweet.”

Nectarines are also an important business for Sunny Valley, and Von Rohr is expecting the peach’s cousin to also have a normal crop this year. The season runs from late June through the end of August.

“The nectarines grown in New Jersey are almost 90-percent red, and there is a big following for those in the Northeast,” Von Rohr said. “They represent about 10-percent of our crop. Most have a tendency to be the 2.5- to 2 3/4-inch size, as nectarines don’t size as well here as in California.”