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Sandy's cooler weather in Fla. concerns sugarcane farmer

9:21 PM, Oct 29, 2012   |    comments
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PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. -- Scott Hayes grows sugar cane in Putnam County.

This time of year, his sugar cane stalks are taller than he is.

As the temperatures drop this week, Hayes is concerned for his crop, which is a rarity on the First Coast.

"It's a product that's disappearing from north Florida and south Georgia. There aren't many people who continue to grow it," he explained.

His farm  -- Hunter's Run Farm - is located west of Palatka in the Bardin area.

Sugar cane likes cooler weather. Hayes said a drop in temperatures can make it even sweeter tasting.  

However, he does not want "heavy frosts or freezes that will kill the cane and make it sour."

The early cool weather is from Sandy, according to First Coast News Meteorologist Mike Prangley. He explained that Sandy is swinging northern winds down this way.

"Our main concern is tomorrow weather," Hayes noted, "and if the temperatures will drop too low and if there will be a heavy frost. If we have a heavy frost, it will kill the tops of the sugar cane."

That means -- more than likely -- he won't be able to sell the stalks ... but will have to quickly make syrup from them.

He plans to turn the lights on in his field to help overnight.

He has some lights already in the field for community events he holds at his farm.

"The lights being on the sugar cane helps keep the frost off," Hayes mentioned.

As the wind really tousled the tops of the sugar cane Monday, Hayes hoped the windy weather stays.  

"If the wind keeps up, we won't have a frost. We're hoping for winds tonight," Hayes looked up to the sky.

Weather is just part of farming for Hayes, who's lost a crop before.

"We're hoping that this year there isn't a hard freeze and a hard winter again," he paused. "We're praying."

First Coast News

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