South Florida farmers struggling after Hurricane Irma wipes out crops

Hundreds of millions of dollars estimated to be lost

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Hundreds of millions of dollars are estimated to be lost in southern Miami-Dade County because farmers haven't been able to work after Hurricane Irma destroyed so much of their crops.

And even though money has stopped coming in, their bills have not.

For many people in the area, things are beginning to get desperate.

"We have nothing coming in, and we're trying to pay mortgages, and you can imagine what 5-acre mortgages are like," Andres Mejides said. 

Mejides and his family run Tropical Delights Organic Farm, in the Redlands area of Miami-Dade County. But things have been tough since Hurricane Irma hit a couple of weeks ago.

"The majority of our business is micro greens, and those need at least once a day of watering, and we haven't been able to water, so we can't plant. We just don't have any income whatsoever," he said. 

Walking around their property, midseason avocados are now rotting on the floor, ripped off the trees by Irma's winds before they were ripe.

Dozens of lychee trees are lying on the ground, as well. Their season fortunately ended just before the storm hit, but Mejides is worried about them in the long term.

"We'll probably lose next year's income -- a great majority of it -- if we happen to get the trees up on time," Mejides said. 

Many people in the area are still working with limited power and little to no running water -- a death sentence for some crops that may have been otherwise salvageable.

Now, desperate farmers are searching for help, saying people might not notice the effects right away, but they will, and soon.

"There's all of these groups that are into the local food movement. Well look around, this is your local food movement right now. I hope you can hold your stomachs for a few months, you know? If not longer," Mejides said. 

That struggle is being felt all around the south Miami-Dade area.

In fact, the Farmworkers Association of Florida said it has been inundated with calls from people who normally tend to the farms and are now desperate for work.

They said the people are often undocumented and are ineligible to apply for unemployment, so they have nowhere else to turn.

About the Author: