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Titan Peach Irrigation

South Carolina’s Titan Peach Farms Benefits with Innovative Drip Irrigation System

by Amy O. Maxwell, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA-NRCS

Chalmers Carr definitely fits the definition of an agricultural entrepreneur. A 4th generation peach farmer on his mother’s side, he has been involved in the business since he was a child working on his uncle’s farm in North Carolina. His education from Clemson University in financial management and agricultural economics armed him with the knowledge, experience, and determination to make it in the peach business. His professionally produced website tells visitors that “Titan Peach Farms, Inc., nestled in the corner of Edgefield, Saluda, and Aiken counties, is the Southeast’s largest most technologically advanced peach operation.”
Sounds like the culmination of a lifetime of hard work, right? Well, hard work, yes, but Carr has not lived even half his lifetime yet, because he is only in his 30’s. He has worked diligently since 1995 to establish his 2500-acre peach farm, along with wife and business partner Lori Anne. The Carr’s have worked with NRCS to utilize the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to install an innovative low-pressure irrigation system. Carr says the system was the key to their survival during the drought that plagued South Carolina and his operation for the last 5 years.
“I have designed a specialized system for my drip irrigation whereby I use a portable filter system hooked into the irrigation main lines that saves me hundreds of dollars per acre in replacing pipes and filters,” explained Carr. “Using low pressure irrigation allows for a more precise water delivery to the peaches and makes a bigger, better product.” The benefits of converting to low pressure irrigation mean increased fruit production and water conservation—two important factors at Carr’s operation.
Through the assistance of EQIP, Carr has worked closely with Edgefield NRCS District Conservationist Bob Bowie to install 1,445 acres of drip irrigation over the past 6 years. The benefits of low pressure versus high pressure include water conservation, ease of use, and an increase in fruit diameter, thus resulting in increased profits. “The initial cost to get started with low-pressure irrigation is high ($1,000 per acre), but once in place, the overall labor and energy costs saved will pay for the system,” said Carr. In addition to the benefits to the producer, low-pressure irrigation is better for the environment says Bowie. “Because water delivery is more efficient and precise with a low pressure system, there is less water waste, no runoff, and the water goes right to the root zone.”
There are many factors to consider when installing low-pressure systems, including the topography of the land, the water source location, as well as location of a power source. Ninety-nine percent of Carr’s water source comes from ponds. He uses a system of water delivery that comes from micro-jets. Another benefit to the low-pressure system is that it requires less labor to run the system. In fact, most of the control of the system comes from inside an office containing a complex network of computers. Carr has relied on technology to advance his peach operation and so far, it has paid off. “Farming is more than understanding the land—you have to remember that it is a business and run it as such,” said Carr. “I am taking a lot of risks now while I am young, but so far I have been lucky, and it’s paid off.”
Bowie congratulates Carr for his innovation and strong conservation ethic, particularly for water conservation. “The Carr’s are a fine example of how a young farm family can be successful and make a living off the land, while also taking care of natural resources,” he commented.
Carr isn’t stopping now. He has hopes to convert his entire operation to 100% low-pressure irrigation over the next 6 years. And his love of farming and his desire to preserve the future of farming goes beyond South Carolina. Carr is involved on a national level in garnering support and increased funding for agriculture, and recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. “In order to save the culture of farming, it has to be profitable, and we must change the perception of farming to make it more attractive to young people.” Carr has no regrets and looks forward to a successful future in farming for himself, his wife, and two children.
For more information about low-pressure irrigation, contact the Edgefield NRCS office at (803) 637-3220. For more information on Titan Farms, visit their website at www.titanfarms.com