Strawberry Producer Delays Planting Ahead of Ian: ‘Definitely the Right Call’

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By Clint Thompson

Florida strawberry producer Dustin Grooms almost started planting his crop on Monday, two days ahead of Hurricane Ian. But he delayed, possibly saving his crop in Plant City where he’s located.

Photo courtesy of Dustin Grooms/Shows plastic torn in a field in Plant City, Florida.

Now he just needs the fields to dry out so he can get his strawberry plants in the ground. Time is of the essence.

“I had plants come Monday morning and I was going to plant Monday, some of the first of the season there. I made a judgement call to wait until after the storm,” Grooms said.

“(But) it got a little bit dicey with the plants. What’s going to happen at the cooler when it loses power? What are we going to do? We ended up getting that squared away because the cooler did lose power. We had to put them on some refrigerated trucks and made that happen (Thursday) morning real early.

“We’ve got plants right now, not in the cooler because the cooler doesn’t have power, but we’ve got them on refrigerated trucks sitting there. As soon as it dries out, we’re going in there. Whether that’s Saturday or Sunday, we’ll be in there.”

Young Plants Susceptible to High Winds, Excessive Rains

Dustin Grooms

The strawberry producer with Fancy Farms in Plant City, Florida, indicated that the damage would have been a lot more severe had he followed through with the plantings ahead of the high winds and excessive rainfall.

“What happens when you plant, they aren’t rooted down real strong, and it takes a couple of days for them to really get rooted in there. What would happen, the wind would come through there and loosen them up and pull them out. If they had sat underneath the water, they would have ended up drowning,” Grooms said. “It’s definitely the right call. Definitely missed the window of what I wanted to do this year so now we’re at least a week behind. Who knows, it might help them out. You never know.”