What is in this article?:
• Any old-time citrus grower can tell you that there have been a lot of hills and valleys in this business.
• Anybody with a weak constitution, this isn’t the business for them. You have to live with your mistakes year after year. You have to keep an eye on the weather all the time.”
THIRD GENERATION Florida citrus grower Scott Young, based in Alturas, values his heritage. “We grow the best oranges in the world in this area and we’re proud of it,” he says.
Must wear many hats
He says today’s citrus grower still should be able to break down a diesel engine, find the problem and put it back together. But, in addition to that, the 21st century grower has to know his way around the Internet and also understand the exotic pests that threaten Florida’s citrus industry.
“Any old-time citrus grower can tell you that there have been a lot of hills and valleys in this business,” Scott says. “Anybody with a weak constitution, this isn’t the business for them. You have to live with your mistakes year after year. You have to keep an eye on the weather all the time.”
“It can be 85 degrees one day and 18 the next — that scares us. On a cold night, you bet everything you own. We could have an Alberta Clipper come through here when the trees bloom out, and there goes all next season. The 1989 freeze changed this area permanently. I went out the next morning and couldn’t believe it. Everything was gone.
“Hurricanes scare us, too. We’re the closest postal ZIP code to where three major hurricanes hit in 2004. We had a lot of damage from that. Trees that were borderline were really torn up; those that weren’t healthy didn’t make it. It cost us a lot of money, plus the rehab costs. We had standing water where we hadn’t seen it for 40 years.”
He says tough times like those made him “a fatalist.”
“We can only do so much; it’s anybody’s ballgame. We do all we can — but we don’t call the shots. We’re at the mercy of the elements. When we lose the next season’s crop, we have choices to make. We can raid our emergency fund, if we have one. We can sell a grove. Whatever we’ve got to do to make it, that’s what we do.”
He blames one of those hurricanes for spreading citrus canker disease throughout the state’s citrus-producing area. It remains a scary disease, he says.
Then, even scarier citrus greening disease, spread by a tiny insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, hit a couple of years later.