Collard greens shortage threatening to stifle luck in new year

The Promised Land Farms
The Promised Land Farms(WTOC)
Published: Dec. 31, 2018 at 7:37 AM EST
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - If you’re counting on collard greens to bring you money in the new year, you may have a harder time finding them, and if you do, they may cost you more this year than last.

Experts and local farmers blame this year’s wet weather, specifically hurricanes and heavy rain, for reducing the crop.

Kenneth Brown, the owner of Sisters of the New South in Savannah, said there are a few celebrity items on his menu, and collard greens are one of the most popular.

"I've seen people come in and say, 'Y'all ain't got no greens? Aw, I'm going,'" Brown said. "It's that sweet but savory but spicy. We've had people come in with kids who don't even like collard greens eat collard greens. It's just their favorite."

A staple at the restaurant for 10 years, the leafy plant is getting harder to find.

"It's like there's a shortage everywhere," Brown said.

He had to order his latest delivery from Jacksonville and while he’s grateful to have greens, he said the shortage brought the biggest price jump in a decade.

"When we first started, you could get a case of collard greens, a good case of collard greens, for $12- $14," he said. "Today our delivery was $36 for a not-as-full case. We talked about, 'OK, if you have greens, you're going to have to pay a dollar surcharge or whatever,' but we didn't do that. We were like let's try to ride it out as much as possible. We value ourselves on being a value, meaning you can come in and get our food at a great price. So even though collard greens have gone up in price, we have them."

Robert Johnson, the co-owner of The Promised Land Farm in Port Wentworth, said heavy rain stunted his greens' growth this season.

"Thank God we did get rain, but they didn't grow as well as they could have grown if we had gotten just a little bit less," Johnson said.

Even though the greens aren't as big as they'd normally be, Johnson said he's just grateful to have them.

"There's a farmer out in Glennville who had plenty of greens," he said. "I called him a while back, and he said he wouldn't have any more until the first of the year. I guess it's cause the weather came in and kind of destroyed his greens crop."

Locals hoping to keep an annual tradition are also thankful Johnson has greens to sell.

"You can't find them [anywhere] else," said buyer Mickie Faulk. "Farmers are far and few between, you know? If you come and get fresh collard greens, you know they're fresh. You know they've been picked right out of the garden. If you go to the grocery store, you don't know how long they've been in the grocery store."

Johnson says he's gotten calls from as far away as Atlanta as people and retailers search for greens.

He suggests people buy greens as soon as possible if they hope to cook them with the traditional, lucky foods on New Year's Day

If you don’t want to make them yourself, Brown said Sisters of the New South will serve them as long as he can find a supplier. He also said people can also order collard greens from his restaurant to serve at home for the holiday.

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