Farmers prepare for freeze in northeast Florida

Colder temperatures can affect outcome of crops

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter

HASTINGS, Fla. - Weather plays a role in the local economy and in the success of people like farmers.

While Hastings could be the oldest agricultural area in America, this weekend's cold temperatures threaten the bottom line for anyone connected to plantings and harvesting in northeast Florida.

"This is a good example of how weather plays a critical role in what we're doing," said Danny Johns, owner of Blue Sky Farms.

As a John Deere rolls across the acres of Blue Sky Farms, it's just one of the ways growers will try to protect their crops during the upcoming cold, and possibly freezing, weekend.

"Right there, he's putting the dirt on. It's not just covering and protecting, you have to get the dirt off afterwards," said Johns.

Johns said he has a lot of experience. He's a fourth generation potato farmer in the Hastings area of St. Johns County.

Johns says when it freezes, no matter how well you prepare, you're going to lose something. He measures it at 15 to 20 percent of a farmer's yield.

"You can't sell out of an empty crop. We've gotta have a crop to sell," said Johns. "That's where failure is not an option. We've gotta keep trying, do the best we can. American agriculture, never bet against a farmer, because he will make it work somehow."

Blue Sky Farms pull out row covers and snuggles the older plants in underneath them. It's costly, but Johns think it's worth it.

As Johns points out, a potato farmer has all his hopes in what these plants produce.

So that's our one shot at a paycheck a year for potato growers. Any freeze puts it at risk, late rains, seed bad, it all affects the year's paycheck," said Johns. "So if anything goes wrong with this crop, it's another 365 days we have to invest in the ground before you have a chance of getting that back out again."

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