This season’s sweet corn harvest was completed just before the torrential rains began Sunday, western Palm Beach County farmers report.
Everglades Agricultural Area farmers in western Palm Beach and eastern Hendry counties harvested close to 373 million ears of sweet corn this season. It’s their biggest crop after sugar cane.
Palm Beach County produces more sweet corn than any other county in the nation. The crop is typically valued at more than $100 million a year.
John S. Hundley, vice president of Hundley Farms east of Belle Glade and president of EAA Farmers said Wednesday that some Glades area fields have had as much as a foot of rain since Sunday. Northern areas of the EAA received 5 to 6 inches, while areas south of Clewiston were hit with as much as 15.5 inches.
“Had this happened a month ago, it would have been a disaster,” Hundley said. “It has been a long time since I have seen a rain like this and not had a tropical event.”
While farmers are relieved that sugar cane and vegetable harvests have ended, cane plants are underwater, which will damage them and eventually kill them. Even rice, a crop that grows in flooded fields and is produced in the summer as a rotation crop, is being impacted.
“Everything is underwater. Some of our rice is going to die. The plant itself has to have at least something above the water. We had small rice planted behind the sweet corn that was barely up. You see some of those fields, and it looks like we have flooded them on purpose,” Hundley said.
The EAA farming basin south of Lake Okeechobee is one of the nation’s largest fresh-market sweet corn producers (as opposed to corn that is canned or frozen) and supplies fresh products all over the U.S., to Canada and Europe.
Many farmers plant corn in rotation with sugar cane, and then cultivate rice before going back to sugar cane.