Florida's deep freeze may put fruits and vegetables in peril
December 15th, 2010
09:30 AM ET
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iReporter pdt165 snapped this picture in Port Orange, Florida, 2 miles from Daytona Beach. Temperatures dropped to the mid-20s overnight and sprinklers were not turned off.

Ever wonder where those yummy strawberries come from during those snowy winter months? It’s Florida - though that may be in jeopardy if temperature trends don’t change as winter sets in.

For the second week in a row, temperatures dipped to 32°F or below, shattering past low temperature records for December. Farmers are still assessing the damage to the fruits and vegetables from the frosty weather.

Monday night and Tuesday morning were the lowest temperatures yet, but as Lisa Lochridge, Public Affairs Director of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association said, "Overall, growers fared well since the temperatures were not as low as predicted."

Florida's $9 billion citrus industry so far has not reported any significant damage. "It looks like we came through in pretty good shape," said Andrew Meadows, Florida Citrus Mutual spokesman.

High winds Monday night helped keep frost from forming on some plants, but it might have caused further damage to more sensitive plants, like green beans, following last week’s frosty conditions. Southwest Florida farmers reported the highest winds at 60 mph said Lochridge.

Southwest farmers also saw the lowest temperatures that dipped into the upper 20s, causing scattered damage to green beans, peppers and tomato plants.

"We had quite a bit of damage – corn and beans that survived last week were wiped out last night," said Gene McAvoy, Henry County Regional Vegetable agent.

One packing house in Belle Glade Florida says 70% of the area's vegetables have already been affected. 150 season workers should be working right now at Pioneer Growers packing house but, "Only 35 have been hired so far due to last week’s freeze," said Vice President J.D. Poole.

Farmers can not let their guard down yet, said Lochridge on Tuesday. The night's weather was expected to be a repeat performance with freezing conditions expected over most of the state.

Immokalee farmer Miguel Talavera says he weathered last week’s frosty conditions but he feared Tuesday night's weather forecast.

"The problem is ongoing tonight," said Talavera. "There will be significantly low temperatures without the wind like last night." As it turned out, areas where temperatures dipped below 28°F were limited, but the scope of damage has yet to be determined.

It will take several days until farmers know the full extent of the damage crops might have suffered. Damaged fruits and vegetables will not only cost farmers money and farm workers their employment - consumers will pay higher prices in the grocery store.

The citrus industry spokesman said farmers will work hard to protect their crops. Said Meadows, "Our fingers are crossed"

Read Florida crops withstand the bitter cold

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Filed under: Business and Farming News • Environment • Farms • iReport • News • Temperature

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Evil Grin

    Being a farmer is hard enough, it really sucks when all it takes is a couple years of bad/unusual weather to knock your business to the ground. I hope they are able to get through this ok.

    December 15, 2010 at 10:47 am |
    • Snowbunny

      Yes, my 3 yr old daughter would be upset if Snow White and Cinderella weren't in their dresses! Yikes!

      All of the citrus fruits would go to waste. :( That's awful and causes financial trouble to those involved. That's the LAST thing we need right now.

      December 15, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  2. Snowbunny

    Can you imagine going to Disney World in a snowmobile suit? :)

    December 15, 2010 at 10:47 am |
    • Evil Grin

      Somehow I would find that highly amusing.

      December 15, 2010 at 10:48 am |
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