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Economy / Business

Local Strawberry Growers Guard Against Cold Snap

Bobbie O'Brien
WUSF Public Media

Florida has never been the perfect climate for growing strawberries -- it's usually too hot or too cold.

And the current cold snap has strawberry farmers in the Tampa Bay region on the defensive this week.

Some growers have been spraying plants with water in order to keep the plants above freezing. Others are covering their crops up entirely with tarps. 

Kenneth Parker, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association in Plant City, said farmers are optimistic that, with precautions and a bit of luck, growers expect to make it through to warmer weather this weekend.

"We have a lot of fruit still on the bush continuing to flower," he said. "We just need a few days in the 70s rather than the 40s and 50s to get it up to the markets."

If growers can keep their strawberries healthy, the cold might actually make the fruit more tasty. Parker said cold weather keeps strawberries maturing longer and producing more sugars.

"The strawberries actually like the cold weather, so the strawberries coming out of Florida are going to be fantastic," Parker said.

Florida is second only to California in the amount of strawberries it exports to the rest of the U.S. The citrus industry in the state's other big crop.

Florida Citrus Mutual spokesperson Andrew Meadows said that citrus growers are expecting only minimal losses during the cold snap this week.

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