Posts Tagged ‘harvest’

Bringing Blueberry Lovers into the Peach Fold

blueberries-peachesKeel and Curley Winery Serves Up Peach-Themed Products and Agritourism Event

THE KEEL AND CURLEY WINERY started in 2003, when blueberry farmer Joe Keel had an idea for what to do with his end-of-season berries. In the Plant City farmhouse kitchen, he prepared his first batch of blueberry wine. Some experimentation and refinement resulted in three distinct blueberry wines. Now, more than 20,000 cases of wine are produced each year at the Keel and Curley Winery — with peach wine and other beverages added to the mix.

Blueberries, blackberries, and peaches are the bread and butter of agriculture operation turned tourist attraction. The onsite winery, cidery, and brewery keep the Keels plenty busy brewing their flavorful products. They feature them seven days a week for customers through their tasting room and Railcar 91 food truck, as well as with several themed festivals, each held annually. They have hosted a blueberry festival for almost a decade, Biertoberfest since 2012, and the Third Annual Peach Festival will be taking place in May 2017.

Alicia Keel says that it only made sense that they would add a peach festival when they began growing peaches. “We’ve always had a tradition of holding festivals for our harvests, so as soon as we had our peaches available we added a peach festival,” she says. There will be u-picks available, and customers are urged to come early as that tends to be a very popular sale. Despite the warmer winter weather trends, the peach harvest is expected to go well. Whatever blueberries and blackberries are leftover from their respective harvests also will be available.

The diversification into these related ventures makes the Keel and Curley Winery an agritourism destination with many attractions. The tasting room makes it easy for guests to try the array of beverages offered by Keel and Curley, including several peach-flavored beverages:

WINES – The blueberry wines that started the company come in three varieties: dry, semi-dry, and sweet. In addition to these classics are seven fusion wines that combine fruit juice, including a peach chardonnay.

CIDERS – Keel and Curley offers eight different ciders. The hard apple cider is brewed at the Two Henrys Brewing and blended with fresh fruit grown on-site or locally. Strawberry, mango, and peach are just a few examples. These ciders are made with fresh juices, not from concentrate, which distinguishes them from competitors.

BEERS – Two Henrys Brewing is the cider and beer branch of the Keel and Curley tree. Five craft beers and a rotating selection of seasonal craft beers means there is always something new to try in the tasting room, including a peach beer.

Having fields full of berries, grapes, and peaches gives Keel and Curley plenty to work with, and they make the most of it. They have even expanded into serving food this year with their Railcar 91 food truck. This provides even more opportunity for cross-use of products, with the ability to feature custom pairings seasonally on the menu.

Are there plans to expand into any more ventures soon? “No!” says Mrs. Keel. “Between having the winery, the cidery, the brewery, and then our own food and tasting room that’s open seven days a week, I think we’ve got a full plate.” And with growing consumer interest and demand of Florida peaches, a full plate of fresh offerings is what a hungry market calls for.




Chill Hours Update: Watching the Weather and Tallying the Time


PEACH GROWERS from Florida, Georgia, and South and North Carolina are concerned. For a second fall/winter season, 2016-17, climatologists are saying there will be the same warm fall and early winter season the growers had last winter. Orchards need cold weather called chill hours to break dormancy and yield fruit.

“Climatologists are saying we are to have a warmer-than-normal fall and early winter,” says Jeff Cook, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Taylor/Peach County Ag and Natural Resources Agent. “Last year we were historically warm … too warm. October starts the chill hours counting and we didn’t have any chill hours to amount to anything until January … not a killing frost until January.”

Peaches need chill hours and most varieties in middle Georgia need between 700 and 1,000 hours, Cook points out. Lack of chill hours can cause erratic fruiting and blooming, which can make it hard for farmers to organize their harvest and contributes to decreased yields.

“It depends on where you are as to how the peach crop is,” Cook states. “In middle Georgia, if we get 800 hours, we will be in good shape. Normally, we have 1,100 hours by January 15. We didn’t make it last year, for temperatures were in the mid-70s. I think it definitely had an effect on the fruit quality this year.”

Flooding waters in orchards can be an issue for peaches, but the fields in Georgia have been dry. In fact, no rain was even received in mid- Georgia by recent Hurricane Matthew. “We got breezy days that made the dryness even worse,” Cook recalls. “I don’t know how much rain they received in South and North Carolina, but they were dry and in need of rain so it probably helped.”

“We are in reduction in the number of buds and maybe quality,” Cook observes of the peach crop this year. “Some spots have gone seven to eight weeks now without rain. I would say middle Georgia is part of that exceptional drought, it is so extremely dry.”

“Peach trees set flower buds in summer and normally set too many so we should be okay. Flower bud numbers are not as big a deal as getting the chill hours we need.”

From a growers’ standpoint, they usually don’t start worrying until December, Cook shares. “At this point, the growers are thinking about it, but trying not to worry too much about things we can’t do anything about.”

There is help in creating a manmade chill-hours effect for the peach tree with hydrogen cyanamide (known by brand names as Dormex or Kropmax) that is supposed to boost up to 300 hours of chill to let the tree start breaking dormancy, Cook notes.

The research arm of the extension has been working on ways to make peach trees produce around the chill hours, but haven’t show any effects from it, Cook cites, reminding that researchers like to have multiple years of data — not just one year to share. If this is another light winter, he says that they will at least have another year of research on the problem.

“Right now, we are looking at a warmer winter, but we are still hopeful,” Cook concludes. “If we normally get a couple hundred less chill hours, it would be fine. We just hope we have a winter this year.”