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Greenhouses Recovering From Hurricane Irma a Year Later

“My daddy farmed and my grandparents farmed,” Carol Howard said. “That’s what I know. I love it outside — I would much rather be outside than inside.”

We all have personal treasures. Now imagine that treasure being lost or destroyed.

That’s what Howard felt when Hurricane Irma ripped through her greenhouses at Mobley Plant World. Howard oversees the sales and operations at the LaBelle, Florida, greenhouse nursery. She has worked there for nearly 20 years.

“It broke my heart,” Howard said. “The whole, whole thing just broke my heart.”

Hurricane Irma destroyed 17 greenhouses at Mobley Plant World. That’s millions of plants.

“There was no organization to the chaos that was left behind,” Howard said. “It was pretty bad.”

She lost over $2 million dollars in less than 14 hours.

“It’s hit so many people financially, so hard,” Howard said. “I know one man who’s probably in a situation where he’s going to lose his home.”

But farmers were hurting before the hurricane. A big reason being the competition with foreign prices.

For example, a box of tomatoes from Mexico is $5. A box of tomatoes from Florida? $8.50.

“Everybody’s cutting back, cutting back, cutting back,” Howard said. “And Irma is bringing that faster than what would’ve been the case. I figured there’d be 15 years left in Florida agriculture — but there’s not.”

Natural disasters like Hurricane Irma don’t help.

“I haven’t recovered from last season yet,” she said. “If I had to go through again this year what I went through last year…I don’t have the stamina left in me.”

Reporting by Anna Kohls