Local Farmers Benefit From Rise Of Fruit And Vegetable Costs
by Shannon Royster
PORTLAND, Tenn. – Despite being hit hard by heavy rain and mudslides, California is seeing its driest period in 500 years, and it has affected the fruit and vegetable supply. One Sumner County farmer said the region's unfortunate loss could be a local grower's gain.
Wayne England has been growing strawberries at his England strawberry farm in Portland, Tennessee since 1976. He said he knows all about Mother Nature and tough times.
"Four years ago I lost two acres of strawberries, and I didn't pick any at all," said England.
If there's a shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables in California, local shoppers could be in for sticker shock at the grocery store, paying as much as 20 percent more, according to the Consumer Price Index.
England said that's good news for local farmers, possibly helping them to pull in new customers.
"It's a big boost, but I hate it for anyone who goes through that," said England.
The big thing England has to worry about at England Strawberry Farm is a possible damaging freeze. If temperatures take a drastic dip down into the teens in April, he said he could lose most of his crop.
"If you get three or four hard freezes in a row, ice will form," said England. "That's going to hurt and it's going to kill the bloom."
If all goes well, weather wise, as it has in recent years there will be plenty of strawberries to choose from on his one in a half acre farm. Plus, England said customers might be able to avoid shelling out more cash.
"I have a lot of people who come local from other counties," said England. "They're dependent on local strawberries, and they're just sweeter than California berries I think."
If you want fresh local strawberries you'll have to wait a couple of months. Strawberry season is only three short weeks beginning and ending in May.