As of early Dec. 15, it appears tomatoes and vegetables in south Florida have suffered significant freeze damage. For this latest coverage see Freeze wipes out some Florida tomatoes.

PLANT CITY, Fla. — Florida grower-shippers escaped serious damage to most of their crops after arctic cold blasted through their fields.

Florida spared major damage from night of cold

Doug Ohlemeier

Strawberry growers spray water over their berries to prevent their fruit from freezing.
Florida grower-shippers escaped serious damage to most of their crops after another night of subfreezing temperatures struck the Sunshine State.


In general, growers fared well and were fortunate because temperatures didn’t fall to as low as predicted in some places especially in Belle Glade, the country’s wintertime hub for green beans and corn, said Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland.

Lochridge said bean and corn growers in Palm Beach County, on the east side of Lake Okeechobee, suffered spotty damage while southwest Florida growers on the other side of the lake where winter tomatoes and other vegetables are grown and where temperatures fell the lowest, also report spotty damage.

“It’s nothing catastrophic, but there are pockets where the tops of the pepper and tomato plants got burned,” she said Dec. 14. “The beans fared the worst. The Belle Glade growers I have talked with say they were pleased because temperatures weren’t as low as predicted plus they had wind as a factor to keep the frost off.”

Florida spared major damage from night of cold

Doug Ohlemeier

Chris Smith, sales manager for BBI Produce Inc., Dover, views strawberry fields being sprayed with water to prevent berries from freezing.
Smith says the cold should only delay growers from resuming harvesting until Dec. 17.


For central Florida’s strawberries, growers remained up all night running irrigation systems to protect their berries from freezing, but didn’t sustain any damage in early estimates.

The water creates ice domes over the berries which keep temperatures above freezing.

Chris Smith, sales manager for BBI Produce Inc., Dover, said the crop survived and that the cold should only delay growers from resuming harvesting until Dec. 17.

“We just need them to dry out and to get some good sunshine,” he said Dec. 14. “This was the freeze we were the most concerned about because of the wind. From a protection standpoint, we came out well.”

Smith said growers have a nice week ahead of them which is forecast to bring much sunshine and favorable temperatures for berry growth.