Volusia County fern crop farmers prepare for arctic blast

Incoming freezing temps pose a threat to crops across Central Florida

PIERSON, Fla. – As temperatures across Central Florida drop, Royce Hagstrom will be bracing the cold to protect acres of fern.

“I would say by midnight, we’ll be on tonight, and if I’d have to guess, it could be earlier. We’re called freeze protectors,” Hagstrom said.

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Hagstrom is concerned the arctic blast sweeping across the country will have a major impact on the leather fern grown in Pierson, a small town in Volusia County known as the fern capital of the world.

“Our highest season is Valentines and Mother’s Day, and we’re worried right now,” he said. “If it was to freeze, then you’re looking at probably six months before you’re gonna have another crop to cut.”

Hagstrom said that it will be a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars, too. His family began growing fern in Volusia County almost a century ago.

In order to protect the fern crop from freezing, Hagstrom said he relies on water. When temperatures dip, the overhead sprinklers are turned on.

“We will turn them on first with it being windy, and we’ll leave it. We’ll drive through this driveway and keep checking the saran, and when it forms, you know, a half inch layer of ice or so, it creates a barrier to keep the steam in, and then we’ll switch it to the underneath sprinklers, and then it’ll keep the steam underneath,” he said. “We’re hoping that we’re gonna save most of our product you know I mean, that’s what we’re shooting for.”

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