Strawberry Fields Asunder: Farmers Destroy Crops

With prices in decline, it's cheaper to let berries spoil than to ship and sell.

ByABC News
March 27, 2010, 4:35 PM

PLANT CITY, Fla., March 27, 2010— -- At strawberry farms across southwest Florida, there's an unusual sight. Workers aren't picking strawberries, they're destroying them.

"We've got more berries than we know what to do with," said Matt Parke, a strawberry farmer.

Parke said that he was forced to tear through 60 acres, nearly half of his crop, to save his farm. He said that prices have dropped so much that it seems cheaper to let the fruit spoil than ship it to market.

Strawberry farmers can usually sell a flat of strawberries, about 12 pounds, for $12 this time of year. Today, there's so much fruit for the picking, a flat sells for as little as $3.

The trouble began during January's hard freeze when Parke and other farmers were spraying strawberry plants with water just to keep them alive. The freezing kept certain varieties of strawberries from growing. When the freeze thawed and temperatures rose, different strawberry varieties all became ready for harvest at the same time.

Even though the farmers have a good explanation for destroying their strawberries, across Florida there are many residents who are furious with the farmers for tossing out perfectly good strawberries. At a soup kitchen in Miami, where strawberries are hard to come by, they were shaking their heads at the incredible waste.

"There is no way else you can put it into words other than they are selfish people," Freddy Conyers said.

"Senseless for me, senseless," Timothy Strutz said.

Parke said he and other farmers aren't trying to anger people.

"We don't mean to, you know, hurt anybody, or do anything to make anybody upset," Parke said. "We're trying to make a living just like everybody else is."