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Pasco County Kumquat Groves 'Devastated' By Cold Snap

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Kumquat is a citrus fruit that look like olive-sized oranges. It is the only citrus fruit eaten whole.

Kumquat farmers in Pasco County were hit hard by the cold snap this week.

Dade City saw temperatures in the mid-20's for several hours on Wednesday night. Kumquats, which are citrus fruits that look like olive-sized oranges, don't deal well with sustained freezing temperatures. 

Greg Gude is the general manager of the Pasco County trade group representing farmers. Gude said Hurricane Irma and a previous freeze had rattled the kumquat crops. The frigid weather this week was the final straw.

"The hard freeze devastated most of the fresh fruit that was left on the trees," Gude said.

Though he could not provide estimates on how much money had been lost in the freeze, he said many farmers may not even harvest enough to cover the cost of fertilizer. 

Gude, who is a kumquat farmer himself, said his grove will run into the negative this year.

"We've lost the total production off the trees," he said. "Now there are more costs to keep the weeds down around the trees and keep them irrigated. It's a lot of cost right now going out."

Gude says Pasco County used to produce an average of 15,000 bushels of kumquat each year, making it one of the largest producers in the U.S. Kumquats and other Florida citrus were ravaged by disease starting around four years ago.

Even without the problems caused by hurricanes and freezing temperatures, kumquat production would still be low this year.

The annual Kumquat Festival held in Dade City later this month will be affected by the lost harvest. The festival is a popular venue for farmers and cooks to make sales and introduce people to the specialty fruit.

"We're going to have a big shortage of kumquats," he said. "Because of this cold weather we are probably not going to have any for sampling at the festival."

Instead of whole fruit, the Kumquat Festival will feature kumquat pies, jams, salsas and other foods that can be made from puree or concentrates. 

You can find more information on the festival and kumquat production in Dade City here.

Roberto Roldan is a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in mass communications and a minor in international studies.
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