In September, I watched helplessly and in stunned silence as Hurricane Irma ransacked South Florida, including an abundance of people from this industry.

By Sept. 14, this was the word from the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association: "It's way too early to tally the losses, yet we know most of the state's nursery and greenhouse crop growers are impacted," says Ben Bolusky, CEO of the FNGLA. "Almost all have lost some and some have lost all."

FNGLA also reported that Florida's plant and tree nurseries suffered significant structural damages and expect sizable crop losses after Hurricane Irma ripped through the state.

South Florida took the brunt of the damage. By the time it reached North Central Florida, it was a Category 1 storm.

Structural damage and crop losses are widespread throughout the Florida peninsula, yet nurseries are resilient and many had already resumed shipments less than a week later, Bolusky says.

However, with labor already tight, the post-storm labor situation will be even tighter as nurseries clean up and get back to normal business, he adds.

To aid in post-hurricane recovery, the FNGLA created a spot on its website for growers who need help to list their name, contact information, location and greatest need. The association also created a page where growers, landscape contractors and others can list their name, contact information and how they can help those in need. Go to www.fngla.org/irma if you can help or still need help.

A story in the Orlando Sentinel reports that among the hardest hit crops: avocados and ornamental plants in Miami-Dade County, along with field crops such as eggplants, tomatoes and bell peppers.

In a report from public television station WUFT, Shade Tree Farm in Morriston, Fla., was without power until Sept. 16. With the help of a generator, the nursery was able to water containers and estimates storm damage and losses at about $20,000. The nursery’s vice president Shaun Brown told the station that he considers the nursery “relatively lucky” and that it could have been much worse.

Florida’s nursery and landscape industry generates $21 billion in total output sales and provides jobs for more than 232,000 people. Of the $21 billion, Florida’s nursery and greenhouse growers, most impacted by Hurricane Irma, produce $4.5 billion in farm gate sales of plants, flowers and trees.

Watch for more reports on the impact Irma had on the nursery and landscape industry in a future issue of Nursery Management.

Post-hurricane damage photos courtesy of FNGLA.
krodda@gie.net