After Hurricane Irma passed through Florida, many of the state’s landscape businesses suffered losses and nurseries also experienced significant structural damages. The nurseries also expect sizeable crop losses, the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association reported.
Florida’s nursery and landscape industry generates $21 billion in total output sales and provides jobs to more than 232,000 people.
“It’s way too early to tally the losses, yet we know most of the state’s nursery and greenhouse crop growers are impacted,” said Ben Bolusky, CEO of FNGLA. “Almost all have lost some and some have lost all.”
FNGLA reported structural damage and crop losses were widespread throughout the Florida peninsula, yet nurseries are resilient and many have already resumed shipments. While the winds have calmed, flooding remains a concern. Many businesses lost power, affecting their irrigation systems which, in turn, increased the risk of crop loss.
Several landscapers in Florida shared their stories. Degory Roll, owner of Palm Garden Nursery & Landscaping Inc. in Brevard County, Florida, noted that his company is still in the recovery process, trying to meet customer needs.
"This issue is not fully resolved," he said. "Every customer's need is different immediately after the storm and keeping in contact right before and after the storm will put a lot of customers at ease since you are playing a role of a first responder to protect your customer's investments. Financially, post-hurricane can be a mixed bag. With a finite number of quality workers and an already busy crew, you will not be able to accommodate or exploit the influx of work."
Also, George Kennedy, president of Terra-Scape Enterprises in Edgewater, Florida, has continued to perform cleanup work with customers this week. While power outages caused some setbacks, he said damages at customer sites from Hurricane Irma were not nearly as bad as what he saw last fall during Hurricane Matthew.
"When Matthew came through last year, it took us almost two months to get properties cleaned up," he said. "We're about 75 percent done with property cleanup now, so the debris and damage wasn't nearly as bad."
FNGLA members have been in frequent communication with one another since Hurricane Irma. “All of our members – landscapers, nurserymen and allied trade people – are very close,” said Ed Bravo, president of FNGLA. “We have a prepared protocol to check on each other, a system we created so we know what and where our resources are, like how many tractors I have and am willing to share.”
Bravo said once his nursery was cleaned up Sept. 12, he sought to help other FNGLA members.
“I have one friend (at Landscapes Unlimited), and his home and his business are on the banks of the Santa Fe River,” Bravo said. “He pretty much lost everything. The Santa Fe River overflowed. And with his home close to the river, the river pretty much took everything.”
With labor already tight, the post-storm labor situation will be even tighter as FNGLA members clean up and get back to normal business. Florida’s landscape companies are already playing an important role in statewide cleanup. The greatest need in the state is for large, commercial generators and fuel across the south, southwest and central Florida.
“We’re trying to match people who can give with people who need,” said Jennifer Nelis, director of marketing and public relations at FNGLA. She said the biggest need right now is for generators in impacted areas that are without power. In addition, she said some members have reported “devastation.”
Many nurseries and landscapers are working on restoring things this week. “It’s sad to see people incredibly impacted, but it’s also nice to see those who are focused on helping those who need help,” Nelis said.
FNGLA also encouraged people to donate supplies at its web page for Hurricane Irma here.
“If you have resources and are willing to provide that, if you can ship things, if you have a truck, please post that to the I Can Help page,” Nelis said. “That will be beneficial.”