Potato growers in northeast Floridas Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties have battled an unholy triumvirate of weather issues this winter and spring. First, cold weather killed back plants that were just out of the ground. Then, severe drought in the area meant lots of irrigation to keep crops alive. And then, just as growers were harvesting two to three weeks late because of the early season cold weather unseasonable flooding left potato fields under water.
Butch Calhoun, director of government affairs for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, said growers were in the peak of harvest when the rains hit.
They were anywhere from just getting started to half done, he said. Depending on the area, the least amount of rain that I heard anyone received was 12 inches, and some of them got close to 30 inches. That was something none of them
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Although potatoes still are receiving high prices on the open market and contract pricing, some growers are concerned about the market. Fortunately, the economic conditions are looking up in some sectors that are important to the potato industry.
Foodservice establishments havent fared well in this recession. High end restaurants especially have suffered, as have quick casual operations. But fast food has actually benefited as customers trade down for value-priced meals. McDonalds is approaching three months of positive same-store sales, which the company attributes to its value menu. As the largest market for frozen fries, its a positive sign for processors and growers.
Theres still reason to be cautious, with summer fuel prices rising and regulatory issues up in the air. Growers might be wise to evaluate their businesses for efficiencies that can reduce costs or labor.
Thats being done not only in the farms and packinghouses, but at
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Farming, ranching and the business of agriculture are in the very DNA of Nate and Michelle Schroeder. They both grew up on farms around American Falls, Idaho, and they have an intuitive understanding of the farming cycles. During their 30-year marriage and as partners in N&M Farms, they have experienced both the good times, when a harvest comes in better then expected, and the bad times, when the harvest comes in thin.
From the hilltop home in eastern Power County that Michelle grew up in and where they moved their family 15 years ago, the Schroeders have watched their farm and ranch grow into an operation with 800 acres of potatoes, 1,500 acres of wheat, 500 acres of corn, 200 acres of hay and 60 registered Herefords in 2009.
It's a partnership in which their mutual backgrounds and individual strengths have been instrumental in their success, Michelle
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