No one would be surprised if Brantley Schirard actually bleeds Florida citrus juice.

His father, John, was a grower and co-founder of the Patrick Fruit Co. packinghouse in Sanford during the 1940s. Schirard started working in the groves before he started high school. He knew this would be his way of life even then.

Schirard graduated in 1961 with a degree in citrus management and production and a minor in etymology from the University of Florida (also spending some time as a Gator football player).  He took a position as production manager at DiGiorgio Fruit Corp., then one of the largest citrus operations in the Indian River District with about 5,000 acres of fruit trees, a concentrate plant and fresh fruit packing operation.

DiGiorgio was bought out by Bernard Egan, for whom Schirard continued to work until hired by Blue Goose Growers. He ran that company’s Florida division for about 15 years until Dole bought the business. Schirard rose to become president of Dole Foods’ Florida Citrus Division before striking out on his own in the mid-1980s.

“That was when I formed Schirard Citrus and SunBrite Citrus Packing for the fresh fruit packinghouse operation. I built a new packinghouse in Fort Pierce, and we managed well over 5,000 to 6,000 acres of groves – not only my own, but partners of mine from the Blue Goose days.”

In the 1990s, he began transferring responsibilities to his children, Brant, Lori and Bryan. Today, Brant is division manager for Blue Goose Growers and has served as president of Southern Harvesting and Schirard Citrus. He also was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Board of Regents of Indian River State College and is a vice president of the Florida Farm Bureau. Brant is an alumnus of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute. Lori runs a successful gift fruit fundraising business, River Brite Citrus Sales, and is a former Miss Florida Citrus. Bryan passed away in 2006 at the age of 39. He had been vice president of Sun-Brite Citrus Packing.

Schirard has a reputation as a formidable industry leader, too. To find out more about this Florida citrus titan, go to http://harvester.ffva.com/producer-member-profile-3/.