Thousands of Acres of Fruit and Veggies are Being Left to Rot in the Fields in Florida and California

April 18, 2020 at 2:30 am

With no restaurants, schools or theme parks to sell them to farmers are plowing tons of unpicked produce back into the ground

A pile of ripe squash sits in a field, in Homestead, Florida. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Farmers who primarily grow food for restaurants, schools and amusement parks are leaving massive mounds of fruits and veggies in their fields to rot.

They are scrambling to sell to grocery stores, but it’s not an easy transition, reports

Grocery chains already have contracts with farmers who grow for retail — many from outside the U.S. – and even that produce is not selling as fast as usual thanks to people stockpiling non-perishables and not visiting stores for fresh fruits and veggies often.

Thousands of acres of unharvested tomatoes, squash, green beans, cabbage and peppers are being plowed over in Florida, while leagues of lettuce and strawberries are being left to wilt in California. Dairy farmers in Vermont and Wisconsin are also dumping thousands of gallons of milk intended for restaurants.

Responsible for proving much of the country with produce during the winter and early spring, Florida farmers are particularly hard hit.

“This is a catastrophe,” Tampa tomato grower Tony DiMare said. “We haven’t even started to calculate it. It’s going to be in the millions of dollars.”

80 percent of the tomatoes grown in Florida are grown for now-shuttered restaurants and theme parks, he notes.

“We gave 400,000 pounds of tomatoes to our local food banks,” DiMare said. “A million more pounds will have to be donated if we can get the food banks to take it.”

“We can’t even give our product away, and we’re allowing imports to come in here.”

In happier news, community supported agriculture (CSA) memberships are skyrocketing. CSAs are typically small, organic, biodiverse farms that deliver weekly boxes of whatever produce is in season to their members, who commit to supporting the sustainable farms consistently throughout the year so they can survive/compete against industrial mono-crop farms.