What’s Growing On: Agriculture industry recovering from pandemic shut down

Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 9:24 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -There is never a good time for an unexpected pandemic to hit, but for Florida farmers, March was the absolute worst. For the state’s farmers, the peak harvest occurs in March, which coincided this past spring exactly with the coronavirus shut down.

“That required a lot of pivoting, looking to new market opportunities like selling directly to the farms, doing online sales when they haven’t done that before,” says Catherine Campbell, an assistant Professor of community food systems at UF.

Farmers had to quickly figure out what they were going to do with their crops. Many of them took major financial hits and donated the crops to food banks.

“In terms of crops that were terminated in the field that people saw pictures of, in many cases it’s because they had over-filled the storage capacity of food banks,” says Campbell. "The food banks actually couldn’t take any more of their food. So they donated as much as they possibly could.”

So where are farmers now? They are already starting to prepare for next year.

Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick says most of their winter vegetable producers are going into prep work, which is moving forward with optimism that they are going to have a good full season again throughout the winter and spring.

Although the pandemic certainly isn’t over, many farmers plan to take what they learned this year and apply it to the upcoming season.

“I think you’ll see a little more caution in as much acreage being planted. Hopefully if commerce can get back to some sense of normalcy, I think the markets will correct themselves,” says Hoblick.

A market that is the second biggest contributor to Florida’s economy behind tourism.

Copyright 2020 WCJB. All rights reserved.

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