It's a good headline. We read it. Jeepers! We like strawberries, and temperatures 20-below normal in prime strawberry growing country means trouble, right? Florida is, after all, the country's biggest source of citrus fruit, and the No. 1 producer of U.S. strawberries this time of year (California is king during the warm months). So we played cub reporter and checked it out. Guess what? There's almost nothing to worry about.
Why? Primarily because farmers are professionals. They know what they're doing. They fight freezing with freezing. "What growers learn is to turn on overhead sprinkler systems. Water freezes on the plants in the fields and gives us a coating of ice. We run that for as long as weather goes below the freeze level," said Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. "It's the opposite effect of evaporative cooling. When water freezes, it produces some heat ... The BTUs of the freezing process protects the plant."
But if it gets cold enough, even that method won't work, and the price of strawberries is sure to go up, right? "If it goes 10 below freezing," Campbell said. It won't.
But all that extra water must be an expense, and it will delay packing, since strawberries have to be dry to ship. And that's going to drive up prices, right? Potentially possible ... but only modestly and temporarily, if at all. "Many people have already committed to prices," Campbell said. "There are advertised features. Retailers love to promote strawberries this time of year."
So there you have it. A full-blown media catastrophe.
"No catastrophe yet," Campbell said. "It's a temporary thing. It's a flash and then it's over."
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