For U.S. produce growers, the bark of Hurricane Dorian was worse than its bite.
Hurricane Dorian caused minimal damage to growers in the Carolinas, Florida and the Eastern seaboard, several industry sources said.
After a close swing by Florida, the hurricane made landfall Sept. 6 at Cape Hatteras, N.C. While inflicting great damage and killing dozens in the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane, Dorian was classified as Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall in North Carolina, with 1-minute sustained winds of 90 miles per hour.
“We were quite worried with the storm approaching with great strength that we had already activated our crisis team should the need arise,” Kelly McIver, executive director of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, said in an email.
While the commission was still gathering data on Sept. 12, she said so far they have found “minimal effect” on the sweet potato crop.
Flooding of fields did not generally occur with Dorian, said Rhonda Garrison, executive director of the North Carolina Corn Growers Association, Raleigh, N.C.
While some corn was blown down near the coast, Garrison said most sweet corn growers were far enough inland that they were not affected. North Carolina sweet corn growers can sell their crop until frost, she said, and plant in increments throughout the season.
“If you are west of Interstate 95, you hardly even got rain, much less any storm damage,” she said. “For what it could have been, we got off lucky,” she said.
Trey Miller, chief operations officer for Melon 1, Punta Gorda, Fla., said the company had a fall watermelon crop in St. Helena Island, S.C. A storm surge from Hurricane Florence hurt watermelon output there last year, but this year that wasn’t a problem with Dorian.
“The wind broke some leaves, but nothing they can’t come out of,” he said. That deal should start Sept. 20 and continue through late October. The company also has a watermelon deal in Barnwell, S.C. that was beginning harvest in mid-September, with no damage from the storm. Production in Florida avoided the storm entirely, Miller said.
“We got really fortunate; we have a big fall crop in South Florida and nothing happened there,” he said.