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.
Greening puts canker on back burner
“Canker is bad but greening looks a lot worse,” Scott says. “Young trees die before they bear fruit. Older trees shed fruit and die. We were worked up about canker, but greening kind of put canker on the back burner.”
Greening will test growers’ mettle, he says, particularly on the Ridge, the famed old citrus-producing area where his groves are located.
“There are a lot of 20-acre to 40-acre groves here that were bought up for housing developments, then abandoned after the housing bust. We don’t have an effective quarantine system here. These abandoned groves are a real problem. The psyllids aren’t controlled in them; then they come out into our groves. It’s a tough one.
“Our costs are way up because of greening. We’re jacking up the fertilizer, pumping nutrients to the trees to keep them producing. That’s key. Greening is whippable, and we’ll do it. There are a lot of smart people in this industry. We’ve whipped everything else that has been a problem, and we’ll whip greening eventually.”
The Youngs market their fruit through Haines City Citrus Growers Association, a cooperative, which in turn markets juice oranges through Florida’s Natural, headquartered in Lake Wales.
This year, Florida’s Natural celebrated its 25th anniversary as a brand, though its owner, Citrus World, traces its lineage back to 1930, when six growers formed Ridge Citrus Canners Corp.
Part of Florida’s Natural high profile marketing plan is to feature its growers on the juice carton. Leland and Wanda Young were on a carton a few years back, telling the story of their family’s farm.
“This has worked out very well for us. We’re not members of an international conglomerate. We may not always get the highest price, but we’ve got a home with Haines City and Florida’s Natural.
“That’s important to us. We’re home folks, no different from most Midwestern farmers, except we grow citrus. Here in Polk County, at least in our area, this is really the Old South. This is Baja Georgia — that’s a good way of putting it.
“I think consumers want to know where their food is coming from. They’re sick and tired of so-called American products being made overseas. Be an American patriot — support your country; buy American. We’re in control of the breakfast of champions right here locally.
“Every chance I get, I bring home the fact that Florida’s Natural is a co-op, owned by growers, marketing our own product,” Young says. “People don’t have to put up with the big international conglomerates. Citrus is all we do, so we have to do it right the first time.”