By Clint Thompson
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is connecting the state’s farmers with local consumers. The results so far have been tremendous, according to Nikki Fried, Florida Ag Commissioner.
Fried highlighted the Florida Farm to You initiative that is designed to aid farmers, who are struggling to sell produce and other commodities during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, while on a conference call Friday morning. FDACS established a website where producers can post information regarding available commodities that are accessed by the public. Commodities like citrus, strawberries, dairy, blueberries, tomatoes, sweet corn and squash are advertised along with the different counties throughout the state.
“It has been a tremendous hit. We’re seeing a lot of positive response and a lot of people going online and are very grateful for the connection we’re making with the consumers to the farmers directly. We have seen some very positive responses from the website. Of course, we’re only on week one,” Fried said. “Hopefully, this will not only continue through the pandemic, but I think some of the silver lining that we are seeing is some of this is going to continue after the pandemic.”
Florida’s produce farmers need local consumers more than ever since COVID-19 has shut down schools and restaurants. These are a huge market sources for the state’s fruit and vegetable growers.
According to Daren Hanshaw, a produce farmer in Immokalee, Florida, he has a fresh cut contract with two major companies. But just Monday did he receive the first three POs (purchase orders). Normally he should have had 15 loads per week. The demand for watermelons has dropped significantly and it shows in the market price. Hanshaw said the prices are 45% off what they have been the past three years.
Paul Allen, president of R.C. Hatton Farms in Belle Glade, Florida, said he’s left 2 million pounds of green beans and 5 million pounds of cabbage in the field. The reason is he just can’t sell them.