My 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.
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
Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist
That's a very creative idea. You would think there would be some way for the farmer to not waste the crop. The problem is who would pay for the crop to get picked? Not sure a Foundation would pick up the tab, the farmer couldn't pay it as he has already lost a fortune this season, and the public can't pick it as the farmer can't afford the insurance. A terrible situation any way you look at it!
I'd be curious to know if there would be something that can be done to make a waiver hold up in court. Seems there should be a way and not just a closed door.
How about if the crop was donated to an organization like the United Way or Salvation Army? There may be enough legal foundation for a larger non-profit charity to make the idea possible.
Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist
Forgoing the insurance seems sensible, but I think an attorney will tell you that a waiver of that kind would not hold up in court.
Why can't the farmer forgo the u-pick insurance? Isn't there an option for people to sign a waiver?
It makes me SICK! This is the same problem doctors have with malpractice insurance that drive our medical cost up. Lawyers and lawsuits.
Why can't we just have a "Pick at your own risk" and if you are dumb enough to hurt yourself while picking berries…take responsibility.
Being married to an attorney, I know the answer to my own question, but this is sad where our country has gone.
I totally agree. I prefer buying locally grown strawberries even if expensive to that coming from anywhere else. I follow eat locally and be healthy. I live in Lakeland and religiously go to the downtown market every Saturday. My kids love going to the farmers market every weekend and I am glad that it helps my kids make a better eating choice since they see all the fresh produce. I personally thank all the Farmers visiting the downtown market with their beautiful bounty.
Thank you Sarah – there was a story on NPR the other day of that very thing. Apparently CBS(?) did a story about farmers turning their crops to plant watermelon and other crops to have for sale in the next two months. People seeing the CBS story sent threatening calls and letters to the farmers because they didn't understand (and weren't told in the story) the economics of picking strawberries.
Thank you for an educational background on why this season was particularly hard for strawberry growers.