9 months after Hurricane Ian, farmers continue recovery process

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

When people think of Florida crops, oranges and tomatoes likely come to mind, but there’s much more grown in the Sunshine State.

All types of farmers felt the harsh impact of Hurricane Ian.

Stephen Cucura is the co-owner of FruitScapes, which grows mangos and other tropical fruits and trees in Bokeelia.

farmers hurricane ian
FruitScapes Nursery. CREDIT: WINK News

“This is our lifeline. This is what we put together, and it looks beautiful today,” said Cucura.

Wednesday looks great, but it’s taken a while to get back to that level in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

“First few days were very difficult because you didn’t think that you could do it, and you thought, well, maybe I should just give up,” said Cucura.

Their greenhouses were destroyed and only one in 100 trees were considered salvageable. Cucura and growers across Southwest Florida have similar stories.

“We lost over, we lost several thousand laying hens. Half of our buildings for laying hens, our barns,” said Nicole Cruz the owner and operator of Circle C Farm.

“We got four to eight feet of water everywhere, so unfortunately, we lost over 100 chickens, we lost all of our fish, which was over 1,000,” said Liz and Mick Jager, who own and manage EFC Farms.

farmers hurricane ian
Farms in Southwest Florida. CREDIT: WINK News

According to Jessica Ryals, an agriculture and sustainable food system agent with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Florida’s agriculture industry lost at least $1 billion to Ian’s brutality.

“When a storm first hits, it’s devastating, and especially that visual impact is so overwhelming,” said Ryals, “but piece by piece, I mean, the community comes together, and people are improving.”

Improving by supporting each other, learning from each other and finding out what resources are available so they’re more prepared. That’s because it’s not a matter of if there’s another storm, it’s a matter of when that next storm hits.

“We all come together with the same goal: we want to produce, and we want to provide the most nutrient-dense, healthy fruits and vegetables and meats for our community,” said Cruz.

Everyone is doing much better now than they were before.

Recovering from Ian isn’t as simple as replanting. Several types of fruit trees take years to grow and even longer to produce fruit.

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