The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) surveyed major peach growers in mid-June and across the state, expectations are high for a very good crop this year.

From Cana and Ararat to Winchester, Charlottesville to Rappahannock, growers say the peach harvest is looking good.

Early rain in the spring boosted growth and this year’s peaches are good sized. Growers did not lose fruit due to late frost, and so far the state has seen no damaging summer lightening, wind or hail. The recent hot weather helped the peaches increase their sugar levels, yielding an exceptionally sweet product.

“This has been a strange year for weather,” said Matthew J. Lohr, VDACS Commissioner, “and frankly, we didn’t know what to expect. But so far, it’s been a great year for peaches. With good rains followed by heat, and with no major natural disasters, Virginia growers have been able to produce a crop of large, sweet peaches with good color and great taste this year.”

The harvest should be about a week earlier than normal in 2010, with some light picking already taking place. The peak of the season should run from mid-July to Labor Day. All areas will have yellow flesh-peaches, white peaches and donut varieties, although central Virginia will have more of the special varieties than southwest or northern Virginia.

Official statistics on acreage are not available, but according to VDACS’ telephone poll of growers, the state has approximately 2,000 acres of commercial peaches this year. This does not include the pick-your-own farms that sell directly to the public. Consumers will find farmers’ markets, pick-your-own farms and other outlets for Virginia peaches at www.virginiagrown.com. They may search by location, zip code, type of venue or product. VDACS urges consumers to call ahead to their favorite farm or market for ripening and picking dates and to ask for Virginia peaches wherever they shop.