Chilling winds swept into Florida Tuesday, bringing temperatures an estimated 30 degrees colder than normal for this time of year. The National Weather Service in Miami-Dade predicted the lower temperatures will stick around for a few days.
It's still too early to tell whether the early cold snap has caused much damage to the 15,000 acres of crops currently under cultivation in deep South Miami-Dade.
Teresa Olczyk, director of the University of Florida/Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension in Homestead, walked along a row of young tomatoes early Tuesday.
She bent down to touch the leaves.
"The tomato plants are not happy right now," she said.
Some were wind scarred: their leaves were brown and drooping. Though many plants will recover from the damage, it can leave them more susceptible to disease.
"The plant is in stress," Olczyk said.
So are the farmers. The talk at Bobbie Jo's Diner Tuesday morning on Krome Avenue in Homestead revolved around one topic: the cold.
The eatery, popular with local farmers, buzzed with conversation about how they weathered Monday night's historic freeze.
"How'd you do?" Miami-Dade County Agricultural Manager Charles LaPradd asked a man as he walked in.
The bean farmer shrugged.
"I'll let you know in three days," he replied.
William Losner is keeping an eye on the mercury.
For 32 years, his family has run 1st National Bank in Homestead, which provides loans to many of the area's growers. Tuesday morning, he chatted with farmers who came to the diner for a warm breakfast.
"I don't worry about one crop, I worry about all the crops," he said. "It affects us if the farmers aren't in the position to pay their loans."
The county is the country's top producer in veggies such as green beans and squash. Miami-Dade's nurseries sells $659 million, making it second in the country.
"Homestead is farming," Losner said.
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