lumber, wine, produce, agriculture, strawberry, avocado, lettuce, honey, almonds pricing, shortage



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In the cruelest of ironies, while Hurricane Delta drenched the Gulf Coast this weekend, there’s not even a drizzle to slow a climate change-induced California wildfire larger than the size of Rhode Island that rages on as you read this.

Exploding to more than a blazing million active acres this past week, the August Complex, in its two months of unremitting fury, has reached “gigafire” status, the first in California’s modern history. Overall, it has lost four million acres representing about 4% of the entire state, double the previous annual record in a place where the wildfire season is now three months longer than in the 1970s.

The personal loss out west for many cannot be overestimated, but the immense inferno’s impacts have consequences across the continent to this coast.

Strawberries, lettuce and wine may be among the hardest expected to be hit with costs or shortage while government agencies are monitoring agriculture and other commodities, such as almonds, avocados, cauliflower, broccoli and honey. But the big ticket item in growth and development appears to be lumber.

More: In the Know: Triggered by pandemic, record home buying eruption not subsiding; fancy poker operation debuts at former dog track land

And: In the Know: Plans for an Elon Musk-inspired 700 mph Hyperloop bullet train for Southwest Florida and an Aldi alert


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With factors such as the surging pandemic-fueled demand for Southwest Florida homes, we had already been experiencing escalating prices for domiciles and other structures prior to the Golden State’s summer of ferocious flames.

“The rising lumber prices are exacerbating the cost of purchasing a home, and wildfires can only increase that impact,” said Brian Alford, Florida director of market analytics for real estate research gurus, CoStar Group.

The evolving circumstances are being followed by John Boyd Jr. of The Boyd Company, an international corporate site selection firm that tracks global development trends in working with dozens of Sunshine State and worldwide clients such as Boeing, Dell, The World Bank, Samsung and UPS for more than 45 years.

John Boyd Jr., principal with The Boyd Company, Inc. (Photo: LAUREN PETRACCA/Staff)

“We are seeing the California wildfires driving building costs even higher,” Boyd said. “The wildfires have pushed lumber prices up 50%, and the average price for a new home up by $16,000.”

And timber is a key piece to the housing puzzle, according to Southwest Florida’s ever-expanding LSI Companies, which has been providing services and consulting to homebuilders, developers, landowners and investors for the past two decades.

“Framing and trusses comprise approximately 16% of a home cost. It’s one of the largest components of a home’s construction, second only to interior finishes at roughly 25% and land lot at 18 to 20%,” said Justin Thibaut, company president. “At a macro level, this is also affecting multifamily, commercial construction as concrete block is now cheaper for apartment construction than wood frame.”

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What today’s cooks can learn from the 1950s kitchen, from leftovers to lettuce wraps

Poodle skirts and leather jackets. Rock ’n’ roll. Midcentury furniture. There’s a lot to love about the 1950s.

For all that nostalgia, the food of the period is rarely on the list of things we appreciate today. Aspics and Jell-O salads, gallons of mayonnaise in everything. There are plenty of reasons that chapter in America’s culinary history is easy to forget.

But home cooks in the 1950s knew a few things that still resonate today, especially considering the scarcity and uncertainty we’re all facing with the coronavirus pandemic. This week we’re celebrating some of that wisdom.

Despite its bad rap, much of the food of the ’50s was lighter in calories and easier on the wallet while remaining flavorful and entertaining. And those lessons can do our bodies and budgets a lot of good today.

Wrap it up

In our low-carb, gluten-free modern life, there’s a lot to love about the lettuce wrap. It’s a light and refreshing way to get all the protein and vegetables our bodies need while keeping the calorie count down. And home cooks in the ’50s knew that as well.

Lettuce leaves, be they romaine, butter or iceberg, are the perfect vehicle for carrying a simple tuna, chicken or other salad in a light mayonnaise dressing. Instead of piling your next batch of tuna salad — try our version loaded with avocado and spicy ranch dressing for a flavorful change — onto a couple slices of bread, reach for a head of lettuce instead.

Stick a pick in it

One thing you could find at any midcentury gathering was food served on toothpicks. Whether it was Swedish meatballs or veggies, our predecessors were often eating those one bite at a time. And that meant giving our bodies time to process each nibble before moving on to the next.

This is a fun and easy thing to translate into today’s kitchen. Instead of a charcuterie board loaded with meats and cheese, try composing those elements into individual bites skewered on a toothpick. Or if you’re making lunch for yourself, cut that sandwich or tortilla wrap into bites and stab each with a toothpick. You’ll probably find yourself eating slower and more mindfully.

We’ve put this approach into practice

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What today’s cooks can learn from the 1950s kitchen, from lettuce wraps to leftovers

By Paul Stephen, Staff writer

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