Hurricane Irma tore through Florida on September 10–11. Now, growers are assessing the damage on their farms and looking toward the future.
Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA), says based on reports from growers, fruit and vegetable farms faced minimal damage.
Before the hurricane came through, Calvin Arnold, center director for the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, said he predicted that fruit and vegetable growers would probably only face destroyed beds since most crops have not gone in the ground yet. According to Lochridge, he was correct.
Many growers in South and Central Florida are having to re-prepare their fields ahead of the fall crop. Luckily, the storm hit before growers planted their crops. Secondly, many growers are facing the challenge of draining their fields of excess water.
Lochridge says that because growers are now having to rebuild their beds, volume of product may be a little light come November. However, she adds that growers are optimistic they will be able to catch up and have a smooth recovery.
According to Lochridge, the other big concern for fruit and vegetable growers in Florida is labor. Labor was an issue before the hurricane, and it will continue to be one as growers scramble to get their fields ready for the fall crop in a timely manner. “Based on experience after the 2004–2005 hurricanes, it’s going to be difficult to find enough workers to help,” she concludes.
Lochridge and the FFVA are still speaking to growers and gathering damage reports from around Florida. Unfortunately, some industries, such as citrus, did not fare as well in Hurricane Irma and face extreme crop loss.
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