Mild weather has crops ripening early

LEXINGTON (WACH, AP) -- Clinton Sease's strawberry plants are ten days ahead of schedule, but he won't be able to enjoy the fruits of his labor yet.

Mother Nature sometimes throws us a curve ball and hits us with some colder weather later in the year, Sease says.

Most farmers won TMt let their guard down until around April 15, according to Sease.

He adds until around mid-April, there is still a good chance South Carolina could experience either freezing temperatures or even a hail storm.

Sease protects his strawberries from the unexpected elements with a roll cover; however, peach producers aren't as lucky.

Some of them do have ways to move the air with big fans and stuff, but you can't put a blanket over a peach orchard, Sease says.

In 2007 we experienced a big freeze for two days over Easter and it really devastated the entire peach crop that year. It can go from one extreme to the other, points out South Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers.

The state only harvested around 8,000 tons of the fuzzy fruit, the third smallest amount in nearly a century.

The upside to the recent temperatures is the produce season extended, allowing farmers to harvest before their competitors.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)