Florida crops not spared cold weather damage

- Growers across the Bay Area spent Friday assessing the damage left behind by a 48-hour cold snap.

Carl Grooms, owner of Fancy Farms in Plant City, walked through much of his 170-acre strawberry fields along with his workers to find dark areas, meaning sections of the crop that died from not getting a protective layer of ice the night prior.

"The center of the bloom is black. You pinch it open, it's totally black," explained Grooms.

Despite watering his crops the past two nights, strong winds made it nearly impossible for every plant to get a good spraying of water to form the layer of ice.

Grooms expects to feel the impact from the cold weather in about three weeks when the dead blooms would have produced ripened strawberries.

"It brought back to reality what the elements of nature can do in a harmful way for an industry," said Grooms.

He is hopeful that his smaller supply will increase the value of his fruit through supply and demand.

"Sometimes with less production, you get a little more price at the marketplace. We're optimistic that in the future, maybe the price can hold a little stronger," said Grooms.

The colder temperatures hit kumquat trees hard as well, causing much of the fruit to freeze and die. One week away from the annual Kumquat Festival in Dade City, officials said they don't expect to have many whole fruits for people to eat. Instead, they plan to turn what is left of the fruits into a puree to make other sellable items.

"People also come for all of the other products, meaning beer, wine, marmalade jelly, salsa," said Greg Gude, manager of Kumquat Growers Incorporated.

At the Green Thumb Nursery on Sheldon Road in Tampa, employees took extra precaution to save their flowers and plants by hanging plastic walls around the outdoor nurseries and bringing vulnerable plants inside.

"We kept them in the greenhouse, so they stayed warm. We just had to go in there and make sure they didn't drop all their leaves of anything like that," said Assistant Manager Steven Rey.

According to a spokesperson with Florida Citrus Mutual, with the exception of some mild to moderate fruit damage, citrus trees fared well in the cold.

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