Jirak Produce takes a hit
Ron Jirak, owner of Jirak Produce, has been battling inclement weather all spring, and recent rains have flooded many of his tomato plants, forcing him to abandon them.
A wet, cold spring set the harvest season back three weeks. Located along Mud Creek in northern Marion County, his farms received 8 to 10 inches of rain Thursday.
A watershed lake near Jirak’s home northwest of Tampa grew from 34 acres to 184 acres, he said.
The floodwater was three feet higher than he had ever seen it. Three of the four hoop houses full of tomato plants at his headquarters on 290th Rd. were flooded, covering the plants. One of the four hoop houses on the home place also was flooded. The plants had to be abandoned.
Wet weather prevented planting of some of the field crops. Cucumbers will be limited this year, and watermelons won’t be ready until August.
“Watermelon doesn’t like wet feet,” Jirak said.
Thursday’s flood washed out some plants. Weeds are thriving.
“Corn is the bright spot,” Jirak said. “It will be ready next week.”
Cantaloupes are ripening and being marketed, as are tomatoes and cucumbers.
Jirak said any tomatoes that were turning ripe last week on the surviving plants have been discarded. Green tomatoes awaiting ripening will be sanitized before going to market to ensure they aren’t contaminated.
“Everything flooded will be abandoned,” he said. “We’re taking every precaution to make sure our produce is safe.”
Jirak tries to stay focused on the big picture. He will take stock of his financial situation in three months.
“I’m trying to minimize my losses,” he said. “It’s not going to be good.”
He was happy to harvest some 80-bushel wheat, which he hoped, along with good corn and soybean crops, might make up for some of the loss.
“I try to keep busy enough not to think about it,” he said.