After suffering through a tough 2010, local tomato farmers appear headed for a better 2011.
With about a week left in the season, the crop looks good, and prices are well above last year's, said York Glover, a Beaufort County agent of the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service.
Usually a $7 million to $12 million industry in Beaufort County, this season's yield should be close to the upper end of that dollar range, making it "a very productive year for tomato farmers," Glover said.
Local tomatoes are typically harvested in mid-June and early July.
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Last year, an early season freeze in Florida led farmers there to replant and flood the market just before S.C. harvests. A 25-pound box of tomatoes then was selling for $6 to $7.
This year, prices are in the teens. Corn and other less prominent local crops have suffered because of dry weather, but farmers usually irrigate their lucrative tomato plants, Glover said.
This year's results aren't quite as good as Mac Sanders, owner of Seaside Farm on St. Helena Island, expected.
He expected prices to be even higher but because demand inexplicably slowed recently, they dropped. Prices remain higher than they were last year, though, so Sanders still hopes this year will turn out better than the last.
"The yield is good, but the market's a little lower than we would like," he said.
Follow staff writer Josh McCann at twitter.com/LowCoBiz.