By Clint Thompson
A productive 2020-21 strawberry season could entice Florida growers to increase acreage this year. That’s a concern, though, for fellow producer Matt Parke, farm manager of Parkesdale Farms in Plant City, Florida; especially with input costs rising.
“Hopefully, people don’t overplant themselves and flood the market. You know when farmers have a good year, they like to go out and add more acres,” Parke said. “I think there will be a few more (acres) here in Plant City, for sure, Hillsborough County. I know there are some people not planting vegetables in the spring and turning their vegetable ground into strawberry ground, I just hope everybody’s making the right decision. We come out of a good year and people have a little bit of money. I’ve seen it before. When you have a good year, people expand. It can sometimes just flood the market when we don’t need it.”
It would especially be untimely considering how much expenses have increased recently. Parke said packaging costs are up 35%. He also expects to pay an extra $60 per roll on plastic.
“Costs are going up. We need to maximize our profitability. I don’t know if adding acres is going to help out maximizing anything,” Parke said. “Let’s say you were growing 100 acres last year. You shouldn’t go and put in 200 acres. Growth is fine, because we need growth with the population growing. There’s a growth, but I don’t think you go in and double overnight. You need to go in and take a breath, step by step.”
According to the USDA NASS, the 2020 Florida’s Agriculture Overview listed strawberry production at 9,900 acres.
Parke expects to start planting this season’s strawberry crop at the end of September or beginning of October.