Monthly Archives: April 2014

Flooding continues to distroy Florida’s panhandle

The Florida Panhandle and Alabama Gulf Coast were hit with widespread flooding early Wednesday, with people stranded in cars and homes waiting for rescuers to find a way around impassable roads and others abandoning vehicles to walk to safety. Crews weren’t able to respond to some calls for help because of flooding in and around Pensacola, and one woman died when she drove her car into high water, officials said. panhandle

Officials received about 300 calls for evacuation in the Pensacola area and had completed about 210, Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference in Tallahassee. About 30,000 were without power. About 22 inches of rain had fallen by midmorning in Pensacola, with 4 more expected. Average annual rainfall for Pensacola is 65 inches, meaning much of that area was seeing about a third of that amount in just one day.

A portion of Interstate 10 north of Pensacola was closed early Wednesday but opened by midmorning. Other roads remained closed. The water filled parking lots, and in some places, are waist high.

All drivers in the area should proceed with extreme caution. The cleanup and rescues could take several days as most of the area is completely saturated.

A New Year-Round Organic Berry Program

Plant City, FL-based Wish Farms, national produce grower and shipper, is now offering a Wish-Farms-Logoyear-round supply of conventional and organic strawberries and blueberries. With the Florida strawberry season completed, focus has turned to the California strawberry season and Florida blueberry season.

Wish Farms grows strawberries in Salinas and Santa Maria. This will be the first year of growing organic strawberries in California. ”In addition to the expansion of our California strawberry program, our Florida blueberry volume is really starting to pick up,” said Gary Wishnatzki, president of Wish Farms. “We’ve also put resources into increasing our packing capabilities this year.”

To support its year-round berry program, Wish Farms continues its “How’s My Picking?” consumer promotion, which launched last November. A call-to-action sticker on each package of Wish Farms berries includes a unique 16-digit number linking that package of fruit back to the picker. Consumers are asked to visit to complete a short survey and in return receive a Wish Farms reusable shopping tote in the mail and are entered to win a $100 gift card to the grocery retailer of their choice. The more surveys completed the greater their chances of winning.

“This is the first time we’ve offered feedback incentives,” said Amber Kosinsky, director of marketing. “Since the program launch we’ve seen a significant increase in surveys; providing valuable consumer data which we will use to make educated growing and marketing decisions moving forward.”

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Free coffee today at Wawa

To mark their 50th anniversary, Wawa is offering free cups of coffee today. Wawa opened its first shop in suburban Philadelphia a half-century ago. The company now has more than 640 locations in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virgina and is a favorite among many truck drivers due to their friendly staff and full deli menu.

wawatampaEarly today, company executives were to re-enact the first transaction at the Folsom store. Employees will wear vintage uniforms and historical signs and photos will be displayed.

A similar event was planned at a store in downtown Philadelphia.

Wawa is a Native American name for the “Canada goose.” The bird’s image appears in the company logo.

Strawberry production down 30 percent

PLANT CITY – Disease that wiped out millions of plants as the season dawned set the stage for an area strawberry harvest plagued by low production and lost profits.
Florida Strawberry Growers Association Executive Director Ted Campbell estimates that production was down 30 percent in the season that just wrapped up. He didn’t have specific figures, but in 2012-13 Plant City area growers produced about 25 million flats.

Gary Wishnatzki, president of Wish Farms, the area’s largest berry marketer, said farmers faced one challenge after another.

“Most growestrawberry-picking-basketrs will probably not come out of the season with a profit,” Wishnatzki said. “It wasn’t a good season; it was pretty tough.”

At the start of the growing season in the fall, two major nurseries shipped diseased strawberry seedlings to growers in Plant City. Growers had to rip up the diseased young plants and spray the ones that weren’t diseased.

As the season progressed, other challenges emerged.

December was a good month, with prices in the $12 to $14 per flat range. But January and February, generally two peak months, were so cool, cloudy and wet that plants weren’t producing many berries.

“When weather is good, it’s good for the farmer. When it’s bad, it’s bad for the farmer. But it’s all up to the man upstairs,” Grooms said.

Competition from growers in Mexico and California wasn’t as keen as in recent years because of unfavorable weather in both areas, Campbell said. And there wasn’t a shortage of pickers, due in part to the fact that there wasn’t as much fruit to harvest, he said.

He said he’s optimistic for next year because of a new variety of strawberry, the Florida sensation, should be available in large numbers. The new variety has a lot of good qualities including flavor that’s been a hit with consumers, Wishnatzki said.

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Your Corona may be riding solo this summer

Nothing goes with summer better than a cold Corona, and no Corona is complete with a slice of lime, but given the current lime market, your Corona may be a little lonely for a while. Lime prices are soaring as local distributors and consumers feel the effects of a nationwide shortage. Some Tampa restaurants and bars are switching to lemons when feasible, and others reluctantly pay inflated prices for the fruit, which distributors say are about 10 times higher than usual.corona

“In all my life I’ve never seen (prices) that high,” said John Sansone, owner of Tampa Bay Farmers Market in South Tampa.

A package of about 150 normal-size limes now costs $125, and a package of about 250 smaller limes cost $110 on Wednesday morning, he said. Normally, limes cost $12 a box this time of the year. Given the huge price jump, many restaurants and grocers may stop carrying them altogether until prices fall.

Growers in the Mexican state of Michoacán are supplying fewer limes because of unrest caused by drug cartels and flooding from heavy rains. That, combined with drought in California and a growing demand for limes for margaritas, tacos and other dishes, has driven up prices to a three-year high.

The average advertised price of a lime in U.S. supermarkets was 56 cents last week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That was up from 37 cents the week ending March 28 and 31 cents one year ago.

“It happens in all different kinds of products,” said John Delaney, a sales representative at the Tampa Wholesale Produce Market, which supplies restaurants and produce markets in the area. “You’ll have stuff spike.”

My advice – switch to lime juice for now.

Would you try to beat a train?

Police released video Wednesday showing an SUV being struck last week by a Houston passenger train after the driver went around crossing gates.
Two adults and two children in the sport utility vehicle were transported for treatment of injuries not considered life-threatening.

Police said the driver will be cited for running a red light and other infractions.

The Metro Transit Authority of Harris County released video footage Monday showing the SUV drive around the gates, then slow for other motorists traveling along a road parallel to the tracks. The train struck the SUV broadside on the passenger side, dragging it before finally coming to a stop.

It was left a mangled wreck, partially pinned under the front of the train.

For the life of me I cannot figure out what was going through this drive’s head. You can clearly see the train was moving quickly, so even if they weren’t paying attention, it’s kind of impossible to miss a speeding train, especially when the gates were down! The second thing that confuses me about this video is the speed in which the driver tries to cut through the gates. He is taking his sweet time, slowly weaving in and out of the gates. If you’re going to try and beat a train, my gut tells me you’re going to try to do it quickly. Add in the fact that traffic is moving on the street directly after the tracks, so the SUV driver was going to have to stop on the tracks or be in oncoming traffic. This driver completely needs a serious drive’s ed refresher course.

See the full video here.