Strawberries are a hot commodity in America and Florida is known for its Plant City strawberries. However, there are a couple of challenges that potential growers need to be aware of. Carson Futch of CBC Saunders Real Estate recently interviewed Kenneth Parker of Florida Strawberry Growers Association to discuss the top challenges growers can expect to face today.
2 Biggest Challenges
Parker explained that the two biggest challenges in the minds of strawberry farmers center around competition from foreign countries and labor. As domestic workers willing to work with the crops by hand are harder to find today, farmers are needing to use programs like H2A. It is not a perfect program by any means, however, it is consistent enough that a farmer can get their crops picked without worry. Although, farmers will have to prepare for the business cost of using the H2A program as it is a more costly solution. The H2A program has several issues that need to be addressed at the federal level and many farmers are working with those in Washington to give advice on making the program better. Today, the H2A program makes up between 55-60% of the workers. These workers are consistent and qualified people.
What can a grower expect as the overall cost?
A farmer has to look at averages between fixed and variable costs. Taking that into consideration, Parker shared how Dr. Zhengfei Guan calculated the annual cost to be $30,000 per acre at $10 a flat (8 pounds of strawberries) with 3,000 flats to break even for his field. Another fact to keep in mind is the risk considering strawberries are not a perennial crop.
How much money can someone wanting to start growing strawberries on a fresh lot expect to spend on development costs?
Parker says the start-up costs can vary greatly, depending on the size of the property and its water needs. But he estimates it can range from $10,000-$15,000 just in development alone not including the cost of the property.
About Carson Futch
Carson Futch is an associate broker with Saunders Real Estate, who specializes in land properties with a focus on all types of agricultural properties and development land. Carson is a 5th-generation Floridian and a Plant City native, where he grew up on a working ranch and citrus operation. He has been an owner and manager of businesses involved in real estate sales and development, production agriculture, harvesting, marketing, and agritourism during the 37 years of his career.
About Kenneth Parker
Kenneth Parker, a Plant City native, oversees two related organizations: The Florida Strawberry Patent Service Corp., which licenses the use of new varieties of Florida strawberries, and the Florida Strawberry Research and Education Foundation, which supports the development of new varieties and other grower-related research at the University of Florida.