Make us your home page

Florida strawberries: Industry experts forecast the season ahead

PLANT CITY — If you're lucky enough to snatch up the earliest Florida strawberries, anticipated in limited supply at stores just before Thanksgiving, the clamshell in your hands could offer a peek into growers' and experts' expectations for this berry season:

Good weather: Consistently mild fall temperatures have kick-started crops, says Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. But the long-term outlook is still uncertain. Although the La Niña weather pattern may bring milder temperatures with occasional cold snaps, other factors could counteract those warming effects, says National Weather Service meteorologist Ernie Jillson.

Rising variety: The festival variety of strawberries remains Florida's dominant crop, but expect to see more varieties of berries. That's right; the relatively new Radiance variety is moving up past Treasure to take the No. 2 spot in the state's strawberry market, Campbell says. A proven performer, the Radiance berry maintains good flavor, tolerates cool temperatures and ships well.

New rules: After a long cold snap in January 2010, farmers' water usage for freeze protection drew criticism when wells dried and sinkholes opened. New water usage rules enacted this summer by the Southwest Water Management District look to prevent that from happening again. The Dover-Plant City area now has a minimum aquifer level with mandated automatic meter-reading devices.

Better technology: Those freezes also prompted more growers to install improved water recovery systems, such as ponds to collect and recycle water that drains from the fields. Farmers may also rely more on alternative freeze protection methods, such as cloth wraps to keep plants warm instead of watering to encase the plants in a cloak of ice.

More acres: Strawberry acreage has increased statewide by about 10 percent this year. Farmers are expanding to keep pace with a growing industry and rising demand, fueled by better-tasting varieties and a recovering economy.

Early production: Farmers put in up to five times as many early plants as they did last year. That incurs more costs for growers but encourages an early market switch from California berries to Florida's crop. Sunshine State strawberries should be available through March and into early April.

Labor shortages: With other states enacting stricter immigration laws, migrant workers in Florida seem to be in shorter supply, too. Chalk it up to the fear factor, said Gary Wishnatzki of Wish Farms: More migrant workers may be returning to their native countries, with not enough skilled workers to take their places. It's a common theme across the United States that started affecting local farmers at the end of last season.

Marketing strategies: Look for a square pattern on strawberry labels. Smartphone users can scan those QR codes to trace their berries, learn what variety they're tasting and watch videos from the farms that grew the fruits. That's a new feature introduced this year at Wish Farms, piggybacking on the increasingly popular industrywide technology that allows consumers to trace their carton of berries back to the fields.

Florida strawberries: Industry experts forecast the season ahead 11/03/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 5:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Another Pinellas foreclosure auction fools bidders, raises questions

    Real Estate

    For the second time in six weeks, a company connected to lawyer Roy C. Skelton was poised to profit from a Pinellas County foreclosure auction that confused even experienced real estate investors.

    A Palm Harbor company bid  $112,300 for  this Largo townhome at a foreclosure auction July 21 not realizing the auction involved a second mortgage, connected to lawyer and  real estate investor Roy Skelton -- and that the bank could still foreclose on the  first mortgage.
  2. Clearwater-based USAmeriBank acquired by New Jersey bank in $816 million deal


    CLEARWATER — USAmeriBancorp, Inc., based in Clearwater, is being acquired by New Jersey's Valley National Bancorp in an $816 million deal, it was announced today.

    Joe Chillura, CEO of USAmeribank, shown inside a branch in Ybor City in this file photo.
  3. Outback Steakhouse sees growth in U.S. and Brazil markets in second quarter


    TAMPA — Restaurant sales were up at Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's Italian Grill during the second quarter of 2017, but Bonefish Grill continues to lag at Tampa-based Bloomin' Brands.

    The Outback Steakhouse, on 4088 Park St. N, is showin on July 26, 2017. Restaurant sales were up at Outback Steakhouse  and Carrabba's Italian Grill during the second quarter of 2017, but Bonefish Grill continues to lag at Tampa-based Bloomin' Brands. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  4. Controversial landfill site could be rechristened as industrial recruiting land in Pasco

    Economic Development

    The east Pasco property of Angelo's Aggregate Materials, which failed to obtain a state environmental permit to be developed as a garbage landfill, is being studied as a potential 1,000-acre mega site for industrial recruitment.

  5. Marriott opening new hotel on Clearwater Beach


    CLEARWATER BEACH — A dual-branded Marriott hotel with a tongue-twister name is opening on Clearwater Beach in August. The Residence Inn Tampa Clearwater Beach and SpringHill Suites Tampa Clearwater Beach will have 255 suites total, connected by a lobby.

    A dual-branded Marriott hotel called the Residence Inn Tampa Clearwater Beach and SpringHill Suites Tampa Clearwater Beach will open in August in Clearwater Beach. Pictured is a rendering.
[Courtesy of Hayworth PR]