PLANT CITY, Fla. - The 52-acres of strawberry fields that Donnie Maxwell manages are a symmetrical work of art.
"The rows are on a 48-inch center from this middle to the center of that middle," said farm manager Maxwell.
But it's the pipes and pumps next to the Berry Fresh Farm fields in Plant City that'll keep him watering during cold weather and keep homeowners with wells from running dry.
"We worked with SWFMD hand in hand. They designed it and layed it out to their guidelines and specifications," said Maxwell.
An average person couldn't tell, but the field has been leveled with heavy equipment and a laser so the water runs from north and south, then down a drainage ditch. Then the water comes out in a nearby recovery pond where it’s pumped back onto the field.
The alternative farming method is called a Tailwater Recovery System. At Berry Fresh, they can recycle about 60 percent of their sprinkler water.
"It usually costs more to do it this way," said Maxwell. He says anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 more.
It's one of the ways the Southwest Florida Water Management District is encouraging farmers in Plant City and Dover to save water, and keep aquifer levels from dipping too low.
"Right now, we're encouraging and we're providing the incentive funding to make it available for the farmers so they can afford to do this,” said Eric DeHaven.
DeHaven says SWFMD covers 75 percent of the cost not just on Tailwater Recovery Systems. SWFMD is also cost-sharing on other alternative methods to save water like freeze cloth which some farmers have rolled-out this cold snap.
DeHaven says the goal is to decrease water usage by 20 percent on farms like Berry Fresh over the next ten years.
"We live here. We have wells at our houses and we don't want to be out of water," said Maxwell.
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