In the 5 short years that I have been with UF/IFAS Extension, we have seen two major hurricanes, 2 major wildfires, a freeze and a global pandemic. Hurricane Ian was just the latest event impacting the Collier County agricultural sector, which frequency experiences weather events even in the best of times.
Part of our role as agricultural extension agents is to not only assist producers and educate the public, it is also damage assessment for these critical events. Nearly five million acres of agricultural land in Florida was affected by Hurricane Ian. Those most affected statewide, and in Collier County, were vegetables and citrus producers. At the time of preliminary publications, state-wide losses from Hurricane Ian will likely be between $787 million and $1.56 billion (UF/IFAS Preliminary Assessment).
At the time of landfall, farmers in Collier County had tomatoes, watermelon, squash, eggplant, peppers, and citrus in production. Overall, about 50% of crops in the ground were a total loss. Of the remaining crops, there could be up to a 50% reduction in yields. Plastic mulch and irrigation was ripped up from winds. Some fields experienced flooding conditions. Citrus fruit almost ready for harvest scattered on the ground. Not great; and not great timing when you consider that Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away!
While it can take a long time to see the true impacts of disaster events, fast forward even just one week and floodwaters have gone down, plastic and irrigation re-laid, and producers already have a new batch of plants thriving in the ground. Florida producers show once again, they are a resilient bunch.
Below is some footage collected by myself and Craig Frey, Hendry County Extension Director and Multi-County Commercial Vegetable Extension Agent of what was happening in the fields right after Hurricane Ian:
You can read the Preliminary Assessment of Agricultural Losses Resulting From Hurricane Ian from the UF/IFAS Extension Food and Resources Economics Department.