Freezing overnight temps damaging crops
ALACHUA, Fla. -- The freezing temperatures overnight damaged crops in North Central Florida. One farmer said he should have waited to plant his warmer season crops.
"There's going to be significant damage to the warmer season stuff when we pull back the cloths," said Noah Shitama, who owns and manages Swallowtail farm in Alachua, growing a variety of fruits and veggies like lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
He said he did not expect overnight lows like the ones Alachua County got throughout the week.
"This took us by surprise mostly because it had been so warm before it," said Shitama.
TV-20's own weather expert, Chief Meteorologist Bill Quinlan said the county broke record lows this week.
"It wasn't just a record, it shattered the record. We were at 32 back in 1999, all the way to 25 last night," said Quinlan.
Shitama estimated about one fifth of his crops were damaged. The cost for a small farm like his is pretty high. "I would say upwards of 10 thousand or more dollars," he said.
The farm cultivates about seven acres, one of those acres for warm season produce.
"We have tomato plants that are a foot and a half to 2 feet tall that have fruit in them already," said Shitama.
Because of the warm winter season, Shitama said he started growing summer fruits, like his tomatoes, earlier than usual. "We did jump the gun because we felt like it's been warm, it doesn't look like it's going to stop being warm so we'll go ahead and start planting our warm season stuff a little early," he said.
Swallowtail Farm distributes to local vendors and sells its produce at farmers markets.
"If we don't start growing melons before a certain time we just won't have them in time to give to our customers," said Shitama.
Farmers will have to cover their crops again. "Frost potential tonight is going to be much higher so we could even have more damage tonight because frost is going to be so dense in the area," Quinlan said.
Shitama said if he lost as much as he thinks, he could be set back more than a month.
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