‘It’s worrying. It’s stressful:’ Clermont citrus farmers prepare for hard freeze

Josh Arnold with Showcase of Citrus expects damage to citrus groves

CLERMONT, Fla. – Local citrus farmers are doing what they can to make sure their crops are not damaged during this weekend’s hard freeze.

Josh Arnold with Showcase of Citrus said they’re working long hours over the next several nights to do what they can to protect their crops.

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“It’s going to be a very long, stressful night for agriculture and citrus all across the state,” Arnold said.

Arnold said he’s hoping for the best but is preparing for the worst as a hard freeze is set to hit Central Florida this holiday weekend.

Josh Arnold (Showcase of Citrus)

“It makes it for a really somber Christmas,” Arnold said. “I know a lot of people are excited for some cold weather on Christmas, but one thing is for sure, the agriculture industry is not.”

Arnold said the weather could cause catastrophic damages to the citrus crops on the 100 acres of farmland in Clermont. He said they are already working to protect their groves.

He said they’re checking the irrigation system to make sure everything is working properly. Workers will water the crops so when the temperatures reach 32 degrees or colder, a layer of ice will form to protect the fruit and trees from the harsh weather.

Arnold said he’s hoping for the best but is preparing for the worst as a hard freeze is set to hit Central Florida this holiday weekend. (Showcase of Citrus)

“We’re going to be creating a layer of ice on all of our citrus trees and as much of our fruit as possible because as long as we’re constantly spraying the water, the temperature of that ice will stay at 32 degrees, and that orange tree can survive a lot longer at 32 than it can at 21,” Arnold said.

He added that they won’t know how bad the damage will be until days after the hard freeze.

“You can get cold damage, and it will set you back not just a year or two, but years depending on how bad it gets,” Arnold said.

Arnold said the harsh weather comes after a difficult year for the citrus industry.

“It’s been a really hard year for citrus between invasive diseases and pests and the hurricanes flooding a ton of groves down in south Florida, and now we get cold weather,” he said.

Arnold said he planted some of the trees on the farm when he was in middle school. He adds it’s devastating to possibly see his family’s hard work destroyed.

“To watch them grow up and to fertilize them and to know in one night some cold weather can come and just kill all of our hard work, it’s heartbreaking and it’s very, very somber. It’s worrying. It’s stressful,” he said.

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