Senator wants new official dessert for Florida

A slice of strawberry shortcake. Photo courtesy: MGN online

Floridians may be saying good-bye to Key lime pie and hello to strawberry shortcake as the state’s official dessert.

A bill was introduced by Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, on Jan.13, who explained the reasoning behind SB 1006, also known as “Operation Dessert Storm.”

According to Burgess and as stated in the bill, there are more than 10,000 acres of strawberries in Plant City, which account for 75% of America’s winter strawberry crop. Additionally, strawberry shortcake is the staple dessert at the state’s well-known festival, the Florida Strawberry Festival, which also takes place in Plant City.

“The industry holds about $400 million in value in the state,” Burgess said during the committee meeting. “This is a massive, massive economic boom for one of the pillars of our economy, which is agriculture and, so as fun as this bill is, as good as it feels, and as great as it tastes, it’s also the right thing to do.”

The Florida Strawberry Festival lures in about 500,000 people every year and serves approximately 200,000 strawberry shortcakes, resulting in the festival receiving a little over $11 million in revenue.

Konnore Long, an organic strawberry farmer in Plant City, talked a little about the process for prepping his land and growing his sweet strawberries.

“We plant our bare root transplant in the first weeks of October and normally start having done fruit around the end of November,” Long said. “We harvest fruit all the way into April. We begin prepping our fields in August and September to get ready to plant. After the season is over, we pull out all the irrigation lines and plastic from the filed in order to get ready for the next season.”

Long’s strawberries aren’t involved in the festival because he’s partnered with a California berry company, which ships their fruits out to grocery stores all around the United States. Despite not being involved directly, Long is still proud to be a part of the impact Florida’s strawberries make on the U.S.

The “berry good bill” cleared its first committee with a 15-0 vote. If the bill is approved, it’s expected to go into effect July 1.

In addition to the festival, Plant City is known as home to the largest shortcake in the world, making it into the Guinness World Record in 2000.

The Florida Strawberry Festival will begin March 3 and end on March 10.