On January 12, Interstate 4, the main artery between Orlando and Tampa was blocked off due to a developing sinkhole nearby
. Commuters stuck in traffic were furious. The same week, Plant City residents called into The Southwest Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to complain about their private wells running dry
. News stations posting the stories online were pelted with comments from residents blaming none other than Plant City's beloved strawberry farmers.
Florida has always been in a constant drought. The aquifers below our feet are always running low and don't have enough time to recharge for the population, even after a particularly rainy season. Despite the drought, Florida boasts its agricultural produce, such as oranges and strawberries
. Plant City, in particular, is crazy about the little red fruit, even hosting an annual Strawberry Festival
to celebrate the year's bountiful crops. Yet when the long cold snap of 2010
hit, the farmers took the same action they always do with freezing temperatures — they turned on their sprinklers and froze their crops.
Freezing crops is not uncommon. It's a practice used to keep the fruit at a constant temperature (32 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 degrees Celsius) despite dropping temperatures, and protect it from wind chill. With normal Florida weather, crops only need to be frozen once or twice a winter, if that. But the cold snap seen earlier this year was long, causing farmers to freeze their crops for almost two weeks. The water used to do this every night became such a substantial amount that it caused sinkholes to open up around Florida.
Florida is build on mainly sand, clay and limestone. Limestone is easily dissolved with slightly acidic drippings, thus can be compared to looking like swiss cheese. The water below us helps keep the land stable, but when it is drained quickly
, can lead to sinkholes such as those we have been seeing lately.
Are the farmers wrong for wanting to save their crops? No, not necessarily. We have to remember that these crops are a livelihood not only for the farmers, but for the community as well. A major loss of crops and income would be felt throughout the community, and there is no insurance for the farmers' lost crops. On the other hand, homeowners have the right to be upset about the fact that they felt the repercussions of the farmers' decisions. In Florida, there is no win-win solution yet, but it sure has opened up some major discussion