If you're looking for locally-grown strawberries, Plant City is the place to be. With thousands of acres of farmland, Plant City's berries are shipped all over the country each winter. But, the Walmart store there was under fire recently for selling strawberries grown in Mexico.
"They want to buy local, they want to be fresh, they want the cheapest price, they want it all, and sometimes you can't have it all," said Ted Campbell, head of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.
He got upset when he snapped photos inside the Plant City Walmart, which is known as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the U.S.
The labels clearly read -- "product of Mexico."
"As a consumer in Plant City, to see imported strawberries, with this many Florida strawberries going to waste, I just let them know that I felt that was insulting and inappropriate," Campbell said.
"That's not a good thing, we all live in Plant City, we should buy from Plant City," said Paul Bookmiller, who told us if the labels don't read "Made in Florida," or "Made in the U.S.A." he puts them back.
"We buy from all the local places around here, for all our vegetables," Bookmiller said.
"We're in a fight all the time with encroachment in our marketplace," said Campbell. "We had a great winter market window for many years, now we fight it."
So Campbell fired off a pointed letter to the higher-ups at Walmart.
"The store manager called me and said they would probably be very careful and watch for that in the future," Campbell said. "And the global sourcing manager from Miami called me and he was quite polite and said that they want to do the right thing for their customers."
Campbell wants people to look at the label before they buy.
"American farmers are dying right now," explained Campbell as we walked through the strawberry fields. "They're going out of business and if Americans don't support them with their purchases at the store, we're not gonna have American agriculture anymore."
The berry biz is worth hundreds of millions to Hillsborough County every year, all dependent on those delicious red berries. But it's not just the growers who are worried.
"The people that make the boxes, the packages, drive the trucks, run the refrigeration equipment, sell chemicals, sell irrigation pipe, repair all the equipment all depend on this industry," said Campbell. "Everything in this community revolves around this crop making a successful profit."
Campbell said most field workers here earn on average, $8 an hour to pick strawberries. In Mexico, he said workers are earning $8 for a day to pick the same amount.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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