Strawberry Fields Forever

Central Florida Ag News|February 2020

Strawberry Fields Forever
Andy McDonald of Sweet Life Farms Describes Why Advocacy Efforts Are More Important Than Ever Before
Teresa Schiffer

Sweet Life Farms in Plant City might be relatively new in terms of established farms, but General Manager and partner Andy McDonald is a seasoned pro when it comes to growing strawberries. McDonald is a fifth-generation farmer who has been farming berries in Plant City since the 1970s. He grew up farming with his father, and in 2011 established Sweet Life Farms with partners Steve Howard and Ron Lovell.

They started with 92 acres the first year, growing strawberries in the season and then various spring crops such as cantaloupe, watermelon, and bell pepper. Currently, McDonald and his team are farming 650 acres of strawberries. They are proud of the growth they have experienced over the past few years, despite the obstacles.

Farming is not an easy occupation, and certain challenges cause difficulties for every farmer — things like diseases, pests, and uncooperative weather. Regulations and labor are the two biggest roadblocks to success in the strawberry industry. Labor tends to be the highest cost for farmers, and this is especially true for strawberry farmers, who pretty much do everything by hand, from planting to harvesting.

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February 2020