The 2017 Florida blueberry season is looking very hopeful. After dodging the freezes that had a severely detrimental effect on Georgia’s blueberry industry, it seems that Florida is going to reap the benefits of a great season.
The freezes that plagued Georgia’s season didn’t quite make it all the way down to Florida enough to have made significant repercussions on the season.
Teddy Koukoulis, director of blueberry operations for Wish Farms and owner of Fabulous Farms said, “Praise God that even when we had the cold night, it did not hurt us here in Florida.” Koukoulis was referring to the night in March when freeze warnings were set in place for a majority of Florida. A hard freeze warning was in effect from 2 a.m.on March 15 to 9 a.m. on March 16 for many counties in North Florida, according to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville. Temperatures were predicted to be 24 to 27 degrees during those hours.
“In some places in North Florida, it got below freezing, but only had minimal damage — maybe five percent (loss) or less,” said Koukoulis, “All of us in South Florida, like my personal farm in Winter Haven, didn’t get lower than 30 degrees.”
Florida blueberries seemed to enjoy the cold night and started to ripen early at the beginning of March. A certain amount of cold weather is actually good for the berries and makes them sweeter, according to Koukoulis.
The Florida blueberry industry is estimated at $82 million and includes 6,000 to 8,000 acres of blueberry operations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recorded that Florida is the U.S. leader in fresh berries. Experts project a strong yield for Florida this season, coming in at approximately 20 million pounds.
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