SEVILLE, Fla. — Hurricane Irma damaged 90 percent of the fall crop of ornamental foliage in Volusia County that had been ready to harvest.

The News-Journal reports that the storm inflicted $9,689,700 in agriculture, fernery and foliage damage.

The storm hit at a crucial time as growers typically begin harvesting and shipping ferns and Christmas greens used for foliage bouquets, garlands, wreaths and other displays during the holiday season that starts with Thanksgiving. Growers say it’s one of the two busiest times of the year.

The fern business in Volusia County is a worldwide industry that generates $70 million-$80 million annually.

If he could choose between a hard freeze and a hurricane as a threat to the delicate leaves of his money crop, fern grower David Register would go with the ice every time.

“A freeze you can try to prevent,” said Register, standing amid damaged shade houses and plants on one of the fields owned and operated by his family for five generations in northwest Volusia County. “There’s no defense against a 100-mph wind.”

If repairs aren’t finished soon, then growers risk missing the production period for Valentine’s Day, the industry’s other essential holiday business, Register said. This week, growers are torn between the competing needs of the harvest and storm renovation, with more jobs to do than workers available to do them, he said.

If repairs aren’t finished soon, then growers risk missing the production period for Valentine’s Day, the industry’s other essential holiday business, Register said. This week, growers are torn between the competing needs of the harvest and storm renovation, with more jobs to do than workers available to do them, he said.

This week, some employees at Register’s farm that ordinarily would be harvesting in the fields were fixing broken shade houses.

“We need to continue to sell our products to have income for repairs,” Register said. “But if you don’t make the repairs, you soon won’t have anything to harvest.”


Information from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com