By Clint Thompson
Timing is everything, and for Florida produce farmer Will Hyatt, it might be the key to a successful season.
Hyatt, who farms bell peppers and cantaloupes in Lake Wales, Florida, has been picking melons for more than a week. He was fortunate not to have to deal with the challenge of marketing produce during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think it was our good fortune to be far north to not have to deal with the front side of it. Our crops are typically planned for mid-to-late April, early May. We weren’t faced with tackling the upfront panic,” Hyatt said. “Really, because of the products that we’re growing and the sales outlets that we have, so far our season has been fairly good to us. I know a lot of people aren’t in the same boat. We’ve been very fortunate to align ourselves with the right labor providers and the right clients. It’s not been too bad for us.”
Not All Are As Fortunate
Unfortunately, not all Florida farmers were as lucky. Paul Allen, president of R.C. Hatton Farms in Belle Glade, Florida and chairman of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, said he had to leave 2 million pounds of green beans and about 5 million pounds of cabbage in the field in this April 7 VSCNews story. All because of the lack of a foodservice market due to restaurants closing in mid-March amid COVID-19.
Hyatt’s harvest window for cantaloupes will last until the first week of June. High temperatures in Florida helped ripen his cantaloupes but also impacted the pepper’s production.
“The temperatures have helped bring the cantaloupes on a little quicker but it’s also made the pepper a little more challenging from a fruit set standpoint,” Hyatt said.
“We can be glad or mad at any kind of weather,” Hyatt joked.