BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) – When it comes to their southwestern Illinois peach crops this year, Chris Eckert and other growers have every reason to feel a bit warm and fuzzy.

A mild winter means certain varieties of the fruit have ripened a couple of weeks early. It also helped that the St. Louis region was spared the spring freezes that commonly take their toll on peach blossoms.

At Eckert Orchards near Belleville, the crop has come earlier than anything on record in the 175-year-old family business.
Chris Eckert calls that “just kinda crazy.”

His orchard generally produces about 75,000 bushels a year. But this year Eckert anticipates closer to 80,000. Much of it will eventually be bound for retailers between Kansas City and Indiana, then as far north as Chicago and Minneapolis.

© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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