History of Processing Peach Industry in Michigan

Peach Tree

History of Processing Peach Industry in Michigan

The first major boost to the Michigan processing peach industry came in the 1950s when the baby food company Gerber encouraged Michigan growers to plant clingstone  peaches. At this same time Suncling and Babygold series of peach varieties became available.  These replace the older clingstone varieties including Ambergem.  Ambergem had some good characteristics but had a tendency toward red in the flesh, which was undesirable for puree used in baby food.   Oceana Cling is a local variety for the Michigan industry.

The most common non-melting type in the past has been Babygold 5. Newer non-melting peaches with better quality have been adopted by Michigan growers. These include two Arkansas selections Goldnine (formerly called A-9) and Allgold (A-142). Goldnine has been rapidly planted by peach growers in the Hart, Shelby, and Ludington areas of west central Michigan. Three new varieties Vinegold, Vulcan, and Virgil have been introduced from the Canadian peach breeding program and are being evaluated by Michigan State University and Michigan growers. It will be a few years before the Canadian selections are grown in significant volume in Michigan.

The processing peach market as a whole has been slowly increasing in recent years, primarily due to the entry of Peterson Farms, Inc., of Sheby, Michigan into the frozen slice cling peach business.  Another new development has been the production of dried and “scoopable” peach products by Graceland Foods of Frankfort, Michigan.

Other new varieties that may help the Michigan industry are those from the Vineland breeding program of Dr. Neil Miles.  His new varieties Vulcan, Vinegold, Virgil, and Venture are under test in Michigan.

Company Products
Peterson Farms, Inc., 3104 W. Baseline Road, Shelby, MI   49455 Frozen slicesand dices, puree
Gerber Products, 445 State Street, Fremont, MI 49413 Baby food
Birdseye/Comstock/Profac Foods Canned halves, hot packed
Heinz Baby food
Graceland Fruit, Inc. 1123 Main Street, Frankfort, MI 49635 dried copped peaches, “Soft-N-Frozen” scoopable product