Floridians know summer. They know the heat, the humidity, the frequent rains, and last but not least, they know the hurricanes. As we head into the height of hurricane season, that threat is top of mind for Florida growers.
In last month’s edition of Central Florida Ag News, we took a bird’s-eye view of the 2023 blueberry harvest. The overriding factor cited by many of the growers when asked about their crop was the late-season hurricanes — particularly Ian. That storm walloped the state at the end of September, causing devastating losses for growers particularly in southwest and south-central Florida.
In this month’s edition, we take a look at the final tally of this year’s citrus harvest. The feedback from growers echoed that of the blueberry growers: Ian hit them hard.
While that’s certainly not a surprise, it did get me thinking about the humbling power of nature, the fragility of agriculture, and the tenacity of growers. Growers have spent the past two decades fighting to survive greening only to suffer a crippling blow from a hurricane. Rick Dantzler, chief operating officer for the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, estimated that the state lost half of its already meager citrus crop because of the storms. Yet many growers we talked to mentioned optimism looking ahead to next year. That gumption is what sets ag life apart.
Just a few months ago Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, issued the following statement in response to a daunting citrus forecast: “Despite citrus growers facing the perfect storm over the last several years of greening, extreme weather, and inflation, their grit and determination persist along with the promise of better days for Florida citrus.”
It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Will Rogers: The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.