Monday, 12 April 2010

Agricultural economics of strawberries

This year, cold weather in Florida delayed the strawberry harvest, so the berries came to market at the same time as California berries. With both sources of strawberries on the market at the same time, the price dropped to levels so low that some Florida farmers tore up their strawberry fields.

Steve Osunsami and colleagues at ABC News described this news in outraged tones (sorry about the ad in the clip below). Neighbors complain about the misuse of environmental resources. Soup kitchen participants rail against the crime of wasting food in a hungry world. The farmer in the interview is on the defensive.

Bobbie O'Brien at NPR takes a different perspective. The NPR story notes more prominently that Florida farmers tore up worthless unusable strawberries to get an early start on planting melons. The plain-spoken farmer in the interview astutely summarizes the relevant agricultural economics.

The two versions of the story offer a lot to think about for readers who care about local and national food sourcing, fresh and processed/preserved food, and the tension between farmer incentives and the public good.

One very small and partial solution, which is also fun and yummy, is to buy some strawberries this week and make some jam. It makes great gifts. In my house, in past years, my daughter has been my partner in this project.

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