Florida farmers are struggling to stay out of the water after losing last year’s crops to COVID-19, and now they say they are competing with overseas suppliers who can offer produce cheaper to our US market.
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- Shady Oak Farm in Lakeland has produced millions of blueberries in the past 16 years, but Sartori’s so-called times have changed
- Rising rent prices in Polk County have made it difficult to maintain reliable farmers, says Thais Sartori
- Lack of production on many Florida farms has led American consumers to purchase their products from Mexico at a lower cost.
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“I’m from Brazil and my husband is from Portugal,” blueberry grower Thais Sartori said. “We bought this land five years ago, but it’s been a blueberry farm for 16 years; that’s why we wanted this land – all the land is pure.
Shady Oak Farm in Lakeland has produced millions of blueberries over the past 16 years, but the times Sartori reported has changed.
“The pandemic has hit us so hard,” Thais said. “We lost the whole harvest; it was a nightmare. We have kept our expectations very low for this year; we keep costs down by not cutting weeds. We used to [cut] the weeds are thinning out to let the crops breathe and soak up the sun, but we can’t afford another year, and I still don’t know what to expect for the next harvest.
The Sartori say their 11-acre farm was once operated by dozens of farmers, some of whom were migrant workers, but they say rising rent prices in Polk County have made it difficult to keep farmers reliable.
“They can’t afford to live here,” Thais said. “They moved to areas where the rent is lower so they can take more money home. It’s tough being a farmer in Florida; Hope we can find some relief.
Lack of production on many Florida farms has led American consumers to purchase their products from Mexico at a cheaper cost. The Florida Department of Agriculture says imports of seasonal crops from Mexico increased 500% nationally from 2000 to 2019.
“How can I compete my US taxes with Mexico,” Thais asked. “They just buy the fruit in Mexico and us?” We cultivate this land and pay taxes here. Paying our employees here for 16 years.
The Sartori family said they were getting between $ 5 and $ 6 a pound, now that stores in Mexico buy between $ 2 and $ 3 a pound. The USDA has brought some relief to farmers, but that, according to Sartori, is not enough.
“They helped us with payroll last year, but we’re still struggling,” Marcio said. “Our three biggest issues are the cost of Florida employment, real estate – living here is expensive, and the fruits that come from Mexico, Peru and other places.”
Marcio said that for the first time his family was outsourcing their products as a means of survival.
“Now we are going to sell to France, Hong Kong and Dubai at a better price,” Marcio said. “They prefer American products, so we can maybe get up to $ 9 a pound there. The competition here is tough but not impossible; all farmers will have to come together to make a change.
The lifeline of the Satori, like many farmers, is tied to their land. So they say quitting is not an option.
To learn more about aid to farmers, visit this page.