President’s Letter

Finding Comfort in the Silver Lining

The 2020 harvest season will always be remembered as the year of the coronavirus.  Just when you think there are enough challenges in farming, add in a “global pandemic.”  To say it was a tough year would be an understatement.  For me personally pricing was strong initially but my contracted labor was tied up in strawberries.  Thankfully, right as my peak production was coming, the strawberry season was over. Unfortunately, it was for the same reason that the blueberry season was so tough—terrible pricing due to coronavirus.  


When the government-mandated a shutdown to stem the transmission of coronavirus many of the systems farmers rely on to move our perishable crops stopped functioning properly.  Grocery stores remained open, but shoppers were not frequenting them for a short period.  Also retail distribution centers did not have enough staff to unload all the trucks and their focus was on restocking items such as bleach and paper towels, which were flying off the shelves.  


The world supply of blueberries started to stack up in coolers. Just when I was wondering if we would be able to continue, the system started to return to some normalcy.  Unfortunately, Economics 101 took over and the supply was greater than demand. Prices dropped dramatically.  What was lining up as a good season quickly turned sour.


Farmers are used to uncontrollable challenges such as weather events and unfair foreign trade policies.  The global pandemic just made it all the more difficult.  I am grateful that many of us (although not all) got to harvest our entire crop even though the prices were poor.  Many other farmers were forced to destroy or walk away entirely from their crops.  


In the midst of all this craziness during harvest season, I had neighbors by my farm stop to take video of our harvest operation with their phones. They yelled at workers and even called my family saying we were being selfish and not following government mandates to not work – going so far as threatening to “report” our operation.  They obviously were ignorant of the fact that farmers and farming was deemed “essential.”  That added stress to an already tenuous situation with farm employees and pickers leery because of the unknowns of coronavirus.  


At the end of season when the government came out with the CFAP program and did not include the Florida blueberry farmer in Category one, I was floored and dismayed.  I knew how hard the organizations who represent us worked on explaining the negative effects the economic shutdown had on our industry.


The silver lining of the whole season was the response by the general public to support local producers.  Alison and I experienced it at our operation first hand.  We decided not to open our u-pick operation but instead to do a we-pick.  Many of our family members, friends and long time customers came out to support us.  This outpouring of support by our community is something that I will always cherish and never forget.


I think the importance of having a domestic food supply is something that is ripe for conversation in our country.  The importance of local farms was on display during harvest season 2020.  Americans saw what happens when the system breaks and how life would  look without local farms. As farmers we need to be leading the charge on the importance of a domestic food supply by doing local interviews with radio, newspaper, television and working social media.


Be safe and continue the good work.

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