The Never Ending Challenges Facing Our Local Farmers

by Sarah Healthy LivingComments: 7

strawberryMy husband was given some strawberries from a local farmer in Riverview, Florida last week.    This farmer was giving away beautiful, ripe strawberries to all his neighbors and friends as he was preparing to plow his fields under with all the strawberries still on the plants.   Yes, you read that right.  This farmer had chosen to to turn his entire crop of strawberries into dirt – unpicked and unsold.

What sort of culmination of events would cause a farmer to do such a thing?    First of all, the state of Florida suffered from one of the wettest, coldest winters on record this past season.     Even the usually mild month of March produced several nights of near freezing to freezing temperatures in many Central Florida locations.   This very cold winter caused quite a delay in the ripening of the Florida strawberry crop and cost Florida strawberry farmers a significant amount of extra capital in terms of keeping the plants and berries alive and healthy through so many cold nights.

While Florida farmers were struggling with weather issues, California strawberry farmers experienced a smooth transition this season from plant to berry to market.   No unusually cold weather delayed berry maturity.   As fate would have it, a California bumper crop of cheap strawberries easily filled the gap left by the delayed Florida strawberry crop.  The extra costs incurred by Florida strawberry farmers from the cold weather resulted in a price that far exceeded the price for the California berries.   Realizing that after paying labor costs to pick the crop, the price for his berries would be roughly twice the price of the California strawberries, this farmer made the extremely painful decision to plow his field under without bothering to even pick the berries.   The berries were unsellable so why bother paying to have them picked?

Why didn’t this farmer just do a u-pick?    U-picks are popular in Florida and certainly he could have reduced his losses for the season by selling directly to a public increasingly aware of the benefits of locally grown produce.    Unfortunately for this farmer, the cost of u-pick liability insurance proved cost prohibitive.  In the final analysis, plowing the field under made more business sense than even allowing the public to come onto his property and pick the berries for free let alone charge something for the privilege!

Our small, local farmers face an ever changing sea of problems and challenges many of which are beyond their control.    If you have the opportunity to support one or more of these brave souls in your community, please do so.   A time is coming in this nation’s history when the genetic unsustainability of factory farms and mass production will fail on a grand scale.    When this time arrives, the safety net of thousands of local farms will prove critical to the survival of the national economy and perhaps even your own family.   Get to know your local farmers now.   They are folks that you need to know on a first name basis.  They are the rock stars of the future.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

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