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Hurricane Matthew pounds Florida Fern Growers

Hurricane Matthew pounds Florida Fern Growers

Images from Erik Hagstrom

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Below is a statement from Ferntrust where the wind damage from the storm has left the fern industry in a real mess. Most of the growers were affected and the race is on now to replace the shade cloth that protects the fern from the direct sunlight.

David Register of Ferntrust says that the fern market was already tight and now it is sure to be tighter. With damage all around the challenge will be getting labor to repair the structures and continue to cut fern from the unaffected parts of the fernery.

These are good ole American farmers and they have seen damage before so we can expect that as you are reading this report they are diligently working to keep the fern supply coming.

“Just a quick status update as now we have lost cell phone service also. The cut foliage industry has been majorly impacted by hurricane Matthew. Many hundreds of acres of shade houses have been completely shredded and thousands of trees are down and blocking roads. Power lines are a jumbled mess laying everywhere. This storm will take lots of time and money to recover from. We are the American farmer and proud of it and will rebuild. Please have patience and understanding as we work through this life altering event. We all have our health and lord willing the strength to get through this. I ask especially of our close knit floral family to continue to support the American farmer as we strive to provide the finest foliages grown anywhere on planet earth. God bless each and everyone of you and please pray for the continued safety of your American Farmer.”
Sincerely, David W Register
Executive Vice President
FernTrust Incorporated

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3 Comments

  • By Patricio G. Balona

    SEVILLE — In northwest Volusia County, the story of steepest toll left behind by Hurricane Matthew might be scripted in green fields strewn in torn black cloth.

    Here, farmers in the cut foliage industry, otherwise known as ferneries, are racing to keep pace with overcast skies and cooler weather to see how much of their crop they can harvest before the sun makes an appearance.

    Hurricane Matthew tore off the black shade cloth covering hundreds, possibly thousands of acres of ferneries leaving delicate green plants exposed to the sun.

    All over northwest Volusia, south Putnam and Lake counties, the fern business — which shells out $60 million to $70 million to the area’s economy — was heavily impacted, said David Register, president of the Volusia County Farm Bureau.

    Strong winds from last week’s hurricane dismantled many of the shade houses. On Tuesday, the black shade material was hanging and ripped in the fern fields of Seville. Rusty nails that tacked down the cloth were scattered on the ground.

    “One thing in our favor right now is at least we are having cloudy days and it’s been cooler,” said Register, the executive vice president of FernTrust Inc., a co-op in Seville made up of 13 family farms. “We are trying to harvest some of the stuff that’s left over underneath the places that are open to the sun before they ruin.”

    With cloudy days, fern farmers have at least two weeks to harvest their crop. On sunny days the growers have less than a week before the sun starts burning the tender plants.

    The post-hurricane scramble to rescue the crops is exacerbated by a shortage of manpower. Most field workers have left to be in construction jobs, Register said.

    David Register, president of the Volusia County Farm Bureau, said Hurricane Matthew could end the fern business for some affected farmers. Patricio G. Balona/News-Journal

    Workers at a Seville fernery repair a shade covering ripped down by Hurricane Matthew. The shade protects leatherleaf fern. Patricio G. Balona/News-Journal

    Ferns in Volusia County are shown largely exposed after its shade cloth was torn up last week in Hurricane Matthew. Those in the industry say some of the ferneries may never recover. Provided by Erik Hagstrom

    Ferns in Volusia County are shown largely exposed after its shade cloth was torn up last week in Hurricane Matthew. Those in the industry say some of the ferneries may never recover. Provided by Erik Hagstrom

    David Register, president of the Volusia County Farm Bureau, said Hurricane Matthew could end the fern business for some affected farmers. Patricio G. Balona/News-Journal
    1/4HIDE CAPTION
    Workers at a Seville fernery repair a shade covering ripped down by Hurricane Matthew. The shade protects leatherleaf fern. Patricio G. Balona/News-Journal
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    “There is just not near as many labor available in the area,” Register said. “We are having a very difficult time recruiting people to cut fern.”

    The hurricane probably affected 70 to 80 percent of the industry with 30 to 40 percent devastated to a point where farmers don’t know how much of it will be repaired and saved, Register said.

    “A lot of the damage is long term and some of the acreages probably will never go back into production,” Register said.

    Hurricane Matthew Hurts Volusia Ferneries

    Fern cutters rush to harvest Leatherleaf fern under makeshift cover hurriedly repaired at a fernery in Seville. The black cloth covering was damaged by Hurricane Matthew.

    Partricio G. Balona/News-Journal

    Ferns in Volusia County are shown largely exposed after its shade cloth was torn up last week in Hurricane Matthew. Those in the industry say some of the ferneries may never recover. Provided by Erik Hagstrom
    3/8HIDE CAPTION

    Ferns in Volusia County are shown largely exposed after its shade cloth was torn up last week in Hurricane Matthew. Those in the industry say some of the ferneries may never recover.

    Fern cutters rush to harvest Leatherleaf fern under makeshift cover hurriedly repaired at a fernery in Seville. The black cloth covering was damaged by Hurricane Matthew..

    Members of Register’s co-op own more than 300 acres of fern farms, making it one of the largest growers and shippers in the area, he said.

    “It’s certainly close to (the tropical systems of) 2004,” said Erik Hagstrom, of Albin Hagstrom & Son Inc., a business that has been in the growing industry since 1928.

    In 2004, Hurricane Charlie also devastated the foliage industry leaving millions in damages.

    “It just seems widespread,” Hagstrom said, in notes emailed to Register.

    The recovery from Hurricane Matthew will be further hampered because there is not enough shade cloth in the world to cover the amount of farmland estimated to be damaged. The few manufacturers of the material aren’t making the coverings fast enough, even if farmers have the money to buy them, Register said. And what’s available is expensive.

    It takes $5,000 worth of shade material to cover an acre, Register said.

  • wow 3000 views. This was important news. Thanks for reading

    Williee

  • More news from Erik Hagstrom of Albin Hagstrom and Son,

    “Probably 75% of leatherleaf ferneries damaged. Massive amounts of acreage uncovered now. Have maybe 2 weeks to get them covered.
    Power loss still widespread. Phones and internet down for most.
    Labor is now working 7 days per week trying to get shade temporarily back.

    Hammocks are hit very hard. Tree fern, plum, etc have major damage.

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