Freeze threatens Hernando County farms

Tampa Bay preparing for cold week ahead

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — Protecting thousands of strawberries is now Jeff Casey’s number one job.

“If I make a mistake at doing this in the next three nights, I lose all my income for the whole year,” he said.

JG Ranch in Brooksville grows broccoli and cabbage, but strawberries are by far its biggest crop.

And to save them from a potential freeze takes a lot of work, using sprinklers just the right way.

“The speed that the sprinklers spin at is three revolutions per minute, so that it gets fresh water three times a minute, so you always want that ice to keep wet.”

Casey has been watching the temperatures minute by minute. 

Every move he makes is a gamble on his livelihood.

“I don’t get to apply for workman’s comp or unemployment. it’s all on me.”

Casey says they grow blueberries too, but they are not a concern right now because they haven’t bloomed yet.

On Friday morning, Casey said the overnight freeze went very well. He said it didn't get as cold overnight as they were expecting so they did not get the hard freeze. 

It took dozens of hours to prepare the strawberry plants for the cold temperatures. He said, they prepared for the worst and hoped for the best 

“It feels good because it means we can be open, and if we get damage it takes a month to get through the damage so an event today can effect us for months on end,” Casey said. 

U-Pick at JG Ranch will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. 

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