By Clint Thompson
With the majority of his spring and summer crop harvested and sold, Florida vegetable farmer Sam Accursio reflects on the challenges and struggles he faced this year amid the coronavirus pandemic and Mexico’s daily exports of produce into the U.S.
“With our vegetable season, way back to February when things started shutting down and then in March and April; in March it was just very tough to operate with no restaurants opening. Then in April, it kind of smoothed out a little bit. Then as we were ending our season it started getting real bad, thinking about the growers up above us and it must have been a horrible situation for them entering their season right in the middle of everything shut down,” Accursio said. “The early part of our year was good. Mexico wobbled a few times with weather. Every time they wobbled or got some kind of serious rain or cold, everybody comes to the Southeast to buy produce. That happened a few times and made it interesting early on.”
Accursio operates in Homestead, Florida and is in the process of finishing his okra harvests. He is also planting his cover crops and fixing machinery, typical producer responsibilities when the crops are not in the ground. He will plant his fall crop in September.
Alternative Ways to Sell Produce
He was one of many producers in the Sunshine State who felt gloom in March through June. When the pandemic struck in mid-March, restaurants closed their doors. When expected buyers of Florida produce shut down for multiple months, it forced farmers to think outside of the box in how they sold their crops.
Accursio posted on social media about produce for sale as part of his new marketing initiative, selling directly to consumers. Cars lined up for a two-hour wait the first day. He sold 40,000 pounds followed by 60,000 pounds the following week. It was an amazing turnaround for a farmer who is contemplating something similar in the fall but on a smaller scale.
“Time will tell if it’s something we can do to provide a service to the local community. My local community, there’s 2 to 3 million people here. I have all of Miami, and south of Orlando there’s 8.2 million people. Just give me that market, I’ll be happy,” Accursio said.