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Hastings and East Palatka potato fields take hit with recent freeze

6:32 PM, Feb 18, 2013   |    comments
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HASTINGS, Fla. -- Potato crops in Hastings and East Palatka took a hit when freezing temperatures moved through the area Sunday night and Monday morning.

That's made it a long couple of cold days for potato farmer Danny Johns of Blue Sky Farm in Hastings.

"Saturday night, we were on the tractor until 3 a.m. and last night we were on the tractor and got in about 2 o'clock," Johns recalled.

Johns and his crew worked to cover and protect his potatoes from the freeze. Some of the plants were covered with dirt

He also used covers that look like big blankets on some potatoes because freezing weather is fatal.

"We got in the low to mid 20s last night," Johns noted.

On Monday, Johns checked to see if his dirt-covered plants had been saved.

"Let's see ... I'm happy with the hand we were dealt at this point," Johns said as he pushed dirt off of some plants.

Many other potato farmers in the Hastings and East Palatka area did not fare as well, especially those with potato plants that were too big to safely cover.

Hundreds of acres of potato plants are frozen and flat. It's a real blow to the local economy.

While many farmers have insurance, it doesn't mean they will make any money from this crop.

Back at Johns' Blue Sky Farm, he continued to check his crop.

The plants under the blankets do have some damage but not a lot.

"That gives me some hope about what we're doing," Johns said.

However, it's too early to know if his crop is all good.

"We'll be able to tell more in a week and then in a month. That's when we can assess the full damage," Johns explained.

The freeze did affect nearly half of Johns' 700 acres, "but just because we had damage, it doesn't mean you'll pay more for food prices. That's because we'll be competing with Arizona and California."

Even with this freeze, the long hours, and some damaged plants, Johns -- like many farmers -- is upbeat.

"You just deal with the cards you're dealt. The good Lord looks out for us. That's part of the challenge of farming."

First Coast News

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