“Mexico has been competing with us for months; they’re getting stronger and we’re getting weaker. The Sartori’s said their 11-acre farm was once worked by dozens of farmers, some of them migrant workers, but they say rising rent prices in Polk County have made it difficult to keep reliable farmers. Florida farmers struggle to stay above water after many American consumers switch to produce from Mexico. @BN9 pic.twitter.com/382g1EeU7F
Shady Oak Farm in Lakeland has produced millions of blueberries over the last 16 years but the Sartori’s said times have changed. “I’m from Brazil and my husband is from Portugal,” said blueberry farmer Thais Sartori. “We bought this land five years ago but it’s been a blueberry farm for 16 years; that’s why we wanted this land – all the soil is pure.”
“The pandemic has hit us so badly,” said Thais. “We lost the whole crop; it was a nightmare. We kept our expectation really low for this year; we cut costs by not cutting the weeds. We used to the weeds short to let the crops breathe and get sun but we cannot afford one more year, and I still don’t know what to expect for the next crop.” Shady Oak Farm in Lakeland has produced millions of blueberries over the last 16 years but the Sartori’s said times have changed
Rising rent prices in Polk County have made it difficult to keep reliable farmers, Thais Sartori says
The lack in production on many Florida farms has resulted in American consumers buying their produce from Mexico at a cheaper cost
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“How can I compete my American taxes to Mexico,” asked Thais. “They are just buying the fruit in Mexico and what about us? We have been farming this land, paying taxes here. Paying our employees here for the past 16 years.” The Sartori family said they used to get $5-$6 per pound, now stores are buying from Mexico at $2-$3 per pound. The USDA has provided some relief for farmers but that, Sartori’s said, is not enough. The lack in production on many Florida farms has resulted in American consumers buying their produce from Mexico at a cheaper cost. The Florida Department of Agriculture says seasonal crop imports from Mexico have increased 500% nationwide from 2000 to 2019.
“They can’t afford to live here,” said Thais. “They’ve moved to areas where the rent is less so they can take more money back home. It’s hard being a farmer in Florida; I hope we can find some relief.” — Ashonti Ford TV (@AshontiFordBN9) September 13, 2021
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