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Elkton farmers assess storm damage, crop loss

10:28 PM, May 5, 2013   |    comments
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ELKTON, Fla. -- Several properties suffered severe damage in St. Johns County after a heavy cell of storms swept through the area Saturday night, but Sunday Elkton farmers began assessing the damage on their farms and facing the losses.

It's the first day we've seen sunlight in a few days, and for farmers in Elkton it's the first day they can assess the damage.

"The water is the biggest thing that really affected me. My neighbors were hit real badly with hail," said Danny Johns, Blue Sky Farms.

Strong storms knocked down trees across Elkton, severely damaged several structures, and caused six-thousand Florida Power and Light customers in St. Johns County to lose power Saturday night. 

Most residents restored power on Sunday, but heavy rain hurt local farmers the most.

"Well there's 18-thousand acres of potatoes growing in the tri-county area and there's four to five thousand dollars an acre, that's 90 million dollars that growers have in the ground right now, that's what we have invested in the ground that's more than any structure," said Johns.

After 10.5 inches of rain at the start of the harvest season, Johns said the only way to save these crops from so much saturation is to air them out before pulling them out of the ground.

Johns spent most of the day on the tractor driving through the fields to air out the ground to begin harvesting on Monday. 

He said he's not sure yet what kind of loss he's facing, but over at Middleton Farms, the owner says it's looking like a 100 percent loss on his potato farm.

"The ground is completely saturated so it actually can rot potatoes from the bottom up and then the rain washed the tops off too so you've got some potatoes that will be sun burned from the top and the bottom," said Johns.

The recent rain comes behind a trail of obstacles farmers in the tri-county area including Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties, have faced just this year alone, including high early year temperatures and early spring freezes. 

"One of my favorite quotes is 'to be a successful farmer a thousand things have to go right, to have a failure just one thing has to go wrong," Johns added.

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