PALMETTO, Fla. - ***UPDATE: Due to the rush on sales, Pacific Tomato Growers Packing House will only be open until 1pm today.***
Pacific Tomato Growers Packing House in Palmetto has become a 'drive up and go' operation. They're selling 25 pounds of tomatoes for $5 a box.
Each dollar made doesn't represent a profit. They're actually taking a loss of nearly $20,000 per trailer load. But it's money needed to keep employees working.
"We need to provide them with work, we need them to earn money so they can pay their bills," said CEO Jon Esformes.
Restaurants have cut back their orders. Shipments to other states have ceased. Esformes knows they're losing every penny put into the crop, but he's not ready to lose his staff.
"It's not an option for us. Our job is to figure out a way to keep working together. We are all family," he said.
Tomato farmers have faced hurricanes, unfair competition, and trade agreements from foreign countries. Even now, as Esformes' tomatoes sit ready to be sold, local retailers are stocking up with foreign products.
"For retailers within a couple of miles of my farms and packing facilities to have 70% of the tomatoes on their shelves be imported tomatoes while we are throwing away these beautiful tomatoes in the field is awfully painful," said Esformes.
Each dollar that exchanges hands gives hope they'll be able to take this challenge on.
"Every box that we can sell means that we can keep people working during this crisis... People are showing up because of the value, but [also] as they start to understand what we are trying to do," said Esformes.
Pacific Tomato Growers will continue the sale on Saturday, April 4 and then next week until all the tomatoes are sold.
Pacific Tomato Growers is located at 503 10th St W, Palmetto, Florida, 34221.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know
AROUND THE WORLD: CoronavirusNOW.com
Map of known COVID-19 cases:
MOBILE APP USERS: Click here for map