Cold freeze could have costly effects

Frozen strawberry plant

January 10, 2010 4:19:06 PM PST
It may be cold and dry in North Carolina, but it's a far different story in Florida. Portions of Flordia are under hard freeze warnings. The cold weather is a shock to many people's systems and an even bigger shock to the state's lucrative crops.

They haven't been decimated yet, but growers are worried about widespread damage. If it happens it could put a dent in people's finances.

Forty percent of the world's orange juice comes from Florida.

In North Carolina the cost of other fruits and vegetables may also spike. It's a one two punch in the Triangle. Farmers are having trouble getting their product to market and consumers are facing higher prices. Signs of the big chill, can be seen everywhere at the State Farmers Market. From the invitation to shop on the sunny side to bundled up shoppers and sellers. Some say, while shivering.

"Oh no, where is everybody? Usually the place is filled with not only people, but vendors," Farmers Market shopper Tisha Milette said.

Milette says she goes to the market for the fresh produce, especially her daughter's favorites.

"Out of vegetables, probably tomatoes, and out of fruit, strawberries," Milette said. Tomatoes grown indoors are available at the Farmers Market.

Unfortunately, the one stand that's advertising fresh strawberries isn't open this Sunday, although they did sell some berries Saturday.

Firewood helps people warm, but strawberries grown outside during the cold snap get covered with cloth and water that forms a thin coating of ice.

"It helps, but when it really gets low, if you don't protect them they won't survive," Berry Patch employee Charlene Hennis said.

Hennis used to grow strawberries in Greensboro, but now she sells jams and preserves at The Berry Patch. She says shoppers looking for fresh berries when it's this cold should prepare to pay more.

"Oh yeah, the price will have to go up," Hennis said. "About fifty-percent, maybe more than that, because gas prices are so much higher now."

The cost of importing strawberries, like from Florida, will get passed down to customers. Bottom line, to get fresh produce now, stick with the winter hardy ones like roots and greens or get ready to dig deeper for healthy choices.

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