By MEG KINNARD, Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — As one of the sweetest battles on record the peach war is really starting to get juicy.
Georgia is officially known as the Peach State, boasting bountiful harvests of the succulent, fuzzy fruit. But earlier this week, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture took to Twitter to point out that the Palmetto State actually produces three times as many peaches as the Peach State.
That spawned a good-natured online back-and-forth between the neighboring states, with Georgia’s Department of Agriculture tweeting that its fruits are “3 X SWEETER.”
South Carolina’s Ag Department threw the ultimate Southern insult with its “Bless your heart” response.
The online back-and-forth comes as both peach-producing states look for a more plentiful year than 2017. Georgia’s peach bounty has nowhere to go but up as compared with last year, when nearly 80 percent of the state’s crop was wiped out thanks to an overly warm winter and a hard freeze in early spring. South Carolina experienced similar hardship, with a late freeze wiping out up to 90 percent of the state’s peach harvest.
Things appear to be looking up for this year, a buoyancy reflected in both states’ genial online sparring. Georgia growers have said they expect a bumper crop of peaches there this summer, with plenty of beneficial chill hours — dormancy necessary for the trees to grow fruit — happening over the winter for the first time in three years. That optimism comes despite freezes in early March that killed off some varieties already blooming, although some agents have estimated that loss at only about 20 percent.
Those same conditions may have helped South Carolina, where agricultural agents at Clemson University have said that 2018 could be peach farmers’ best harvest in a decade. The South Carolina Agriculture Department has said that the state’s peach crop is usually valued at $90 million annually, and officials in Georgia have estimated that a good peach crop there is worth about $50 million.
Aside from being the Peach State, Georgia is home to countless namesakes for its official state fruit, from dozens of streets in the Atlanta area to even a Peach County. The fuzzy, pitted orb is also the official fruit of South Carolina, which also boasts a famously quirky, peach-shaped “Peachoid” water tower painted to match the variety grown in Cherokee County, where it’s located. Much like it’s shape, it was the butt of a joke in the TV show “House of Cards.”
With high hopes for a better crop this year, even agriculture officials in other states got in on South Carolina and Georgia’s Twitter fun Thursday. Jai Templeton, a farmer who serves as Tennessee’s ag chief, offered to serve as a peachy peacemaker, tweeting, “I feel qualified to conduct an independent taste test.”