Florida and citrus. They go hand-in-hand. Oranges are displayed across our license plates and farms line our freeways and roads.
“This region, Southwest Florida region, is one of the largest producing regions for the state,” Steve Smith, Executive Vice President of Gulf Citrus Grower’s Association, said.
And at Green’s Citrus Groves in Alva, every 10 acres tells a story.
“It started as a 10 acre block,” Frank Green said. “Now we’ve built it up to almost 100 acres of citrus. We have a name for each block so they were all planted at different times and each block has it’s significance in some way or another.”
The M&D block, for mom and dad. The last block the last block they were going to plant.
The oldest block dates back to 1917. It’s the Green’s family business.
“I depend on Bill, he keeps it all in his head,” Frank said.
Bill is now in the driver’s seat as the third generation farmer of the Valencia oranges.
“It’s a rewarding business if you will,” Bill said. “It’s a dying industry you know, for the small guys.”
The juice from their family trees are at risk of drying up due to greening. Greening is almost like a cancer, but more more serious and labor intensive, he said.
“This yellow striation that’s greening,” Bill sais.
A bug called a psyllid is the culprit — piercing the leaves of the trees to get nutrients. But that simple action infects the tree.
“With greening it’s the whole tree system from the roots through the fruit itself,” Bill said. “So we spend a lot of time and money battling greening and pretty much the state of Florida is 100 percent affected.”
97 percent of the Green Citrus Groves is impacting by citrus greening.
“We’ve had the greening disease for a solid 10 years now, and that disease impacts the production of the trees, it doesn’t impact the quality of the fruit and the juice is still good,” Smith said.
Bill hopes the state comes up with a way to cure it. What’s next for generations to come?
“So many variables that are uncontrollable,” Bill said. “It’s a tough industry so I hope, actually I pray, that it’ll be here for my grandkids, but you know we just do the best we can and we’ll see what happens.”
This is their livelihood.
“It’s where I come from,” Bill said. “It’s something to be proud of.”
And the family isn’t giving up.
“You don’t go to Publix and pick up a gallon of orange juice,” he said. “It starts here and it takes a lot of heartache and lot of sweat, blood and tears to get it there. And you have a whole different appreciation of where things come from when you’ve lived it. It’s a good thing and we all love it, that’s why we do it because it’s not for the money.”
Reporting by Allyssa Dickert