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Potato crop in Hastings survives hard freeze

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Updated: 1/08 6:28 pm
HASTINGS, Fla. -- Thousands of potatoes weave through machines at Blue Sky Farms in Hastings.

But it's not a typical sight this time of year,

"These were our planted in the end of September which is right in the middle of hurricane season," said farmer Danny Johns.

This week's freeze was another potential risk to Johns' crop.

He was concerned it could destroy some of his harvest.

"It could affect the top layer of potatoes," said Johns.

Johns says part of what saved his crop from the hard freeze was perfect timing and just the right amount of soil covering his potatoes.

He planted his potatoes months early this year, in an effort to provide a supply of local potatoes to people in the area.

He says he usually plants in December, but hoped to get an extra harvest before then.

UF extension agents say fresh, local potatoes this time of year in NE Florida are almost unheard of.

"What people get at this time of the year is potatoes that have been in storage, and are not fresh," said Dr. Dan Cantliffe.

Cantliffe says most potatoes available around Jacksonville are kept in storage for 10 months to a year, and cost money to ship.

He says Johns' crop translates into savings for customers.

"If you are getting something in the vicinity of 50 to 100 miles, the transportation costs are a mere fraction of what it would be if they're being shipped from Idaho several thousand miles," said Cantliffe.

Action News cameras were rolling as farmers started harvesting the early crop, and Johns said after counting the potatoes, the risk of planting early was worth it. His crop survived the freeze.

We checked in with Blue Sky Farm employees who said they are planting their next round of potatoes.

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