(Jan. 27, 3:40 p.m.) BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Cold weather damaged most of Belle Glade’s winter green beans and sweet corn.

As growers assessed damage from a series of freezes that struck south Florida growing regions during the overnight hours of Jan. 20-23, buyers should expect far fewer south Florida beans and corn.

“All of our beans were wiped out,” said Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, one of the region’s largest growers of beans and corn. “Any corn we had planted for the month of March has been wiped out. It was truly a setback for our winter program.”

Biederman said Pioneer’s growers were assessing damage Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 before considering possible spring replanting plans.

For corn, Homestead growers normally harvest the bulk of production January through March with Belle Glade ramping up in spring volume in early April, though growers have smaller volumes in the ground for January and February harvests.

Belle Glade and Homestead-area bean growers plant and harvest continuously through the winter.

Initial reports had the freeze causing a 20% loss for Homestead green beans, squash and tomatoes.

Immokalee-area growers reported little damage to bell peppers and squash with damage to beans unknown.

The state’s tomatoes didn’t suffer much damage, said Reggie Brown, manager of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee and executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange.

“There was some spotty damage around depending on the farm and the condition of the crop,” he said Jan. 26. “But all in all, most growers are saying there was less damage than the temperatures would tend to indicate, which is a blessing. They got banged-up but they didn’t get wiped out.”

Meanwhile, for the state’s spring potato crop, damages weren’t as severe as initially believed.

Arnold Mack, president and chief executive officer of Mack Farms Inc., Lake Wales, and vice president of the South Florida Potato Cooperative, said production north of Lake Okeechobee into central Florida suffered the worst damage, ranging from 15%-40%.

He said the freeze may delay the potato crop by a couple of weeks.

“After the first and second morning, we thought we had quite a bit of severe damage,” Mack said Jan. 26. “But now, I think our farm has 30%-35% damage and that we shouldn’t give up on any of the potatoes the way the plants are looking. We should have some reduced tonnage but that first third of our crop was mature to the point to where it won’t be affected.”

Florida beans and corn destroyed, potatoes delayed
Jim Monteith, sales manager for Pacific Collier Fresh Co., Immokalee, Fla., inspects some bell peppers Jan. 23, the day after a hard freeze struck south Florida growing regions. Florida growers were assessing damage from successive nights of subfreezing temperatures that hit growers Jan. 21-23.