Palmetto berry harvesting season leads to arrests and reminder for permits

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COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. – An Immokalee man is behind bars after Collier County Sheriff’s Deputies discovered him with multiple bags of illegally picked Palmetto Berries.

29-year-old Delmar Vasquez-Ramirez was pulled over during a traffic stop, and later charged with a felony after picking the berries without a permit. The stop occurred on Immokalee Road in Collier County.

“It’s pretty one, two, three. You were trespassing, you were stealing, here are the consequences,” said Sonia Cardenas, a lifelong Immokalee resident.

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Cardenas says she has seen many people involved in the picking of berries.

“I actually have a couple relatives that have gotten in trouble for picking berries,” said Cardenas. 

WHY ARE THE BERRIES PICKED?

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Palmetto berries, from the saw palmetto tree, are illegal to be picked without a permit in the state of Florida.

“Berries can be sold anywhere from a dollar to a few dollars a pound … that can be a lot of money if you collect them,” said Marco Acosta, a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University and the organizer of the Food Forest, a project in which the students of FGCU experiment with different types of horticulture.

“I know people in this community don’t do it to be greedy, not to get rich, it’s just to survive. They’re already below poverty level, they’re just trying to survive,” said Cardenas.

WHY IS IT ILLEGAL?

Conservation. Picking the berries of the saw palmetto plant can cause harm to the plant, the surrounding ecosystem and environment, among other things.

“The most important part is we don’t want people going on to nature preserves and disturbing species that should not be disturbed,” said Acosta.

HOW CAN I GET A PERMIT?

If you would like to apply for a palmetto berry permit, you must file a formal request with the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Tags: palmetto berries

 

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