Low Temps Means High Anxiety for Farmers

Dropping temperatures could me a rise in prices in the produce section of your grocer


Dealing with the cold is nothing new for farmers, who have to pull out all the stops to salvage their precious crops.

But when a prolonged snap hits like the cold fronts that have hovered over South Florida the past few weeks, farmers like Brandon Moehling need more than a warm hug and a blanket to get through the night.

"I heard it got down to 28, I saw with my own eyes 29 degrees," said Moehling as he trudged through his family-owned farm just west of Florida City. "We cranked up our water early and gave it hell."

Growers and agricultural officials say that the feared freeze of winter vegetables was blunted by the early applications of water either sprayed or piped into the south Miami-Dade fields.

It appears that those growers who got water on there crops early and kept on watering fared well, but some grim estimates guess 40 percent of crops could be lost because of the bitter cold.

"Everyone got going early," said one grower. But a quick drive through the rural areas revealed plenty of wilted bean and squash plants.

Miami-Dade County agricultural chief Charles LaPradd said it will take several days to determine the exact amount of damage. Assessment teams are in the fields taking notes. 

In recent years growers have been spared the ravages of hurricanes, but cold snaps have taken their toll.

In January and February, frigid temperatures cost growers $280 million.

And falling temperatures mean rising prices for consumers.

A box of beans is currently going for $36 when it usually only ran about $6. How that will translate into the produce section will be evident in a few days.

Tuesday night provided plenty of anxiety for Moehling and he expects many sleepless nights in the days to come.

"It is a battle with mother nature. It is a game that everyone who farms down here understands," he said. "Every winter you are going to have to do battle."

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