Interviewee: Marion Holder
Interviewer: Doris Edwards
Date: March 3, 1994
E: This is Doris Edwards, I am a student at the University of Florida. This interview
is for Dr. Samuel Proctor's class in oral history. I am speaking with a Mr. Marion
Holder, a local grower of citrus with a small citrus grove in nearby Putnam
County. We will discuss the effects of the severe freezes of the 1980's on the
citrus industry in north central Florida, as well as Mr. Holder's methods of growth
management and cold protection. Now to Mr. Holder.
E: What is your full name?
H: My name is Marion Holder.
E: Middle name?
H: It is Lawrence. My middle name is Lawrence.
E: When and where were you born?
H: I was born in 1930 right here in Gainesville out near where Sam's Warehouse is.
E: Where did you grow up then?
H: I grew up, I have been in Gainesville all my life.
E: Where was it that you grew up, out where Sam's is?
H: Yes, it is 820 Northwest Twenty-fifth Avenue now. In those days it was called
E: Where did you go to school, here?
H: I went to local schools, Gainesville High School, and I went to the University of
E: So when did you graduate from high school?
H: I graduated from GHS, Gainesville High School in 1948.
E: Did you take any subjects that were interesting more than others?
H: No, I took all the math courses and science courses you have to and english.
Gainesville High School was pretty highly rated in those days. We were
required, boys were required to take a lot of math and science courses so I took
E: But not the girls, did it matter what they studied?
H: They did not, they were not required to take as much math as the boys were.
E: That is discrimination. What year did you go to the University of Florida?
H: I started in 1948 and I went through the middle of my junior year; that is when the
Korean War started. I dropped out in January of 1951 and joined the Navy for
four years. Then I came back and finished at the University of Florida in 1956.
E: Like a lot of others. Where were you in the Navy?
H: I was in the Navy, on the Destroyer, stationed in Newport, Rhode Island.
E: At the University of Florida, what was your major? What did you major in?
H: I majored in agricultural economics. I took a variety of coursed in all the different
parts of agriculture school. I took one citrus course in my course of study.
E: So you were always interested in the agriculture?
E: When you graduated, what was your first job?
H: My first job was my only job. I went to work at Soil Conservation Service right
here in Gainesville; it is an agency of the United States Department of
Agriculture. I went to work as an agricultural economist on watershed painting
team. I stayed with the Soil Conservation Service till I retired in 1983.
E: People do not do that anymore do they, stay at one job?
E: So you had always intended to go into agriculture?
H: Some form of agriculture, I was not sure exactly which but the opportunity came
along for the Soil Conservation Service. I decided that was for me.
E: It is as good as any. If they are willing to pay, it is as good as any. When did
H: I retired in 1983.
E: So that gave you how many years?
H: I have been twenty-one years retired.
E: The office was in the Federal Building?
H: Yes, on the second floor of the Federal Building. Right now all of the agricultural
agencies have moved out on to Northwest Forty-third Street. The Federal
Building is being used more for court offices and that sort of thing. All the USDA
people had to move out.
E: Where and when was your father born what was his name?
H: My father's name was Ellis Wesberry Holder, he was born at Sante Fe; that is
the little community out about twenty miles northwest of Gainesville. He was
born there, his father and his grandfather both lived in that same area so his
family goes way back in the history of Alachua county.
E: But do you know where they came from?
H: I really do not know what their origin was, I sure don't.
E: But you know that father, grandfather, and great grandfather were already here?
H: Yes. Sure 'nuff.
E: Where did your father go to school, was it also here?
H: My father went to a little one room schoolhouse out at Sante Fe. He only went to
the ninth grade in school. He went down to Crystal River where he had an uncle
who was a school teacher. He was really in the eighth grade but his uncle told
him he was too big for the eighth grade, so his uncle put him in the ninth grade.
He finished the ninth grade and after that he started teaching school. He never
went to high school but he taught school for a year or two.
E: Do you have any information about your grandfather, what he did, when he was
H: I really do not. They were mostly farmers up in the Sante Fe area, most of my
father's folks were.
E: And your mother?
H: My mother was born in South Carolina but they moved to Florida in 1905 when
she was seven years old, I believe. They settled within about two or three miles
of where my father lived, so they both grew up in the neighborhood of Sante Fe.
E: What was her name?
H: Elizabeth Madison Davis.
E: Do you know when she was born?
H: She was born in 1898. She and my dad both were born in 1898. She went to
school at Sante Fe; she went to about the sixth or seventh grade, later she went
to Massey Business College and learned to be a secretary and do that type
work, like a stenographer.
E: Did she have a career?
H: No, she worked for a while in Jacksonville but after they got married in about
1925, she never worked except in the home for the rest of her life.
E: And her parents, do you know anything about where they are from?
H: Her parents came from South Carolina, in fact her grandmother was sent down
to Florida when she was a young lady about eighteen years old. When the
soldiers was coming back from the Civil War her grandmother was sent down to
stay with relatives near Sante Fe, and she married down here. She gave birth to
my grandfather and she died a very few weeks after the baby was born. She
was only about twenty years old at the time. So, some of the people in the
neighborhood took care of the baby and then sent him back to South Carolina
when he was about two years old. When he was eighteen, he came back to
Alachua and ran into his father on the street here in Alachua and met him. He
has lived here ever since, all the rest of his life. His name was Lawrence Davis.
E: Do you have brothers and sisters?
H: I have two brothers. My older brother Ellis lives in Winter Haven, he is retired
and he worked for the state Division of Plant Industries. My younger brother
Tommy lives down near Mt. Dora. He used to live here in Gainesville, he worked
for Sperry Corporation when he was here. He later moved to Maryland to
manage a farm for his father-n-law and then he moved back to Mt. Dora where
his father and mother-n-law have a farm in the citrus grows. It is a little place
called Sorrento; it is just east of Mt. Dora.
E: On your father's farm he was a farmer, right?
H: No. My father owned this property out near Hawthorne but he was a rural
carrier, a postal carrier. He worked for the post office as a clerk for years until he
became a rural carrier in 1939; he stayed with that for about thirty years. He
retired as a postal employee. He bought this property with a lake on it. He
gradually over a period of years added more land to it as it became available.
We did not really do a good job of managing it, it was just mostly woodland with
a few cows roaming on it.
E: Your grandparents, they had a farm what did they grow?
H: They had a farm up around Sante Fe; it was mostly tobacco, truck crops, and
corn; they probably had some hogs and cattle. They were small farmers, not
very large holdings.
E: They lived mostly on the food and soil that they grew?
H: Yes. That is right. My mother's father also ran a saw mill; my mother's brothers
took over the saw mill and even made axe handles out of hickory and white oak.
They specialized in axe handles, rough axe handles. My cousin who farms is in
that area still runs the old saw mill just as a side line; when he needs some
lumber he has the mill to cut it. In the old days the saw mill had a steam engine
on it, they ran the saw mill with steam then. They were farmers and had the saw
E: The house that you grew up in, does it still stand there?
H: Yes, it is still there. It is on 820 Northwest Twenty-fifth Avenue. My son is
buying the property now.
E: Oh, he is buying it?
E: Keeping it in the family?
H: The house was built by 1928. It is a frame house, a small house but a good
sound building. On my home place our north boundary is the south boundary of
Sam's Warehouse. My dad bought three acres there from the Daly family; the
Daly family used to own a big portion of north Gainesville, in fact the Daly house
is a part of that holding. The Daly house is considered the oldest house in
Gainesville, I believe. Anyway, my dad bought three acres from the Daly family.
We used to have a milk cow there and I would do the milking in the morning and
night when I was going to school, but now it is all built up all around us so milk
cows are not allowed in that area anymore.
E: Right, nor chickens or anything else. How long have you been in the citrus
H: Well, just about all my life I have been interested in budding just a couple of
trees along the road. I actually got started budding several hundred trees about
1981 I guess, and then I set out my first little grove of about two or three acres in
1983 in the fall just before the first severe freeze that we had in 1983 and 1984.
E: What do you mean by budding?
H: Budding is a form of grafting, and I used sour orange for my root stock. Then I
would graft whatever variety I was interested in onto the root stock.
E: This is done throughout the citrus industry; it is a certain root stock and a certain
H: I have kind of lost track of all the varieties that they use for root stock but there
are several types that they use. I use sour orange because it is a little more cold
resistant and also more resistant to wet conditions. The fruit has a real good
quality because the root stock does influence the quality of the fruit.
E: Of course the cold hardiness is the important part in this north central Florida.
H: In the little nursery that I have now in my backyard, I am budding trees for sale
and I am putting them on trifoliate stock.
E: And why did you change it?
H: Well, it is supposed to be even more cold-hardy than sour orange and this far
north I would like the most cold-hardy root stock that I can get would be better. I
really like sour orange for budding and for my own use but the trifoliate is really
considered to be better.
E: But there is always a tradeoff, right?
H: That is right.
E: So, you like the sour orange better, but you use this so what is the disadvantage
to the sour orange?
H: For one thing the sour orange is easier for budding for me and you can start
budding a little bit sooner in the spring. The trifoliate stays dormant, that is one
reason it is more cold resistant. It stays dormant longer and it is later in the
spring before we can get started budding. I do not believe that the trees make
quite the growth, the size that sour orange makes which for most dooryard
planting the trifoliate would be what they would want anyway.
E: Dooryard plantings? Meaning?
H: Just backyard and gardening.
E: Do you believe that the freezes in the 1980's were more severe than before, or
H: We had more of them in sequence then. We had one in 1983 and 1984, then
the next two winters we had freezes that killed my little trees in my grove down to
the ground and down to the root stock. For that reason, it seems to have been
more severe. We did have some severe freezes back in 1958 and 1962 that did
severe damage but that was before I was doing anything. The little grove where
mine is located today was only about a ten acre grove on that same site, and it
was partly killed in the 1958 freeze and completely killed in the 1962 freeze. We
have had some severe ones. We have had given years of moderate winters it
seems; that was one reason I was interested in starting one again.
E: Long time.
H: Sure was.
E: Do you feel that having grown up here that the 1980s were just a coincidence, or
do you feel that really the climate has changed?
H: I think it is coincidence because I noticed on the news each night when it shows
the record lows for that day, the record lows were way back there in the early
years, way back before the 1980s. I really think we just had a cold spell, I do not
think that it is a trend.
E: However, it has affected the industry in the area.
H: That is right, it surely has. In fact, the place that we own out near Hawthorne,
when my dad first purchased it in 1939, we had some tremendous seedling
orange trees that were sprouts from the 1899 freeze. They had been growing
about forty years, and then they all were killed in the 1958 and 1962 freeze.
Each time we have a severe freeze, the citrus industry moves a little further
south, so today there are very few citrus trees growing in this area.
E: Every time there is a freeze they are frightened and scoot away.
H: That is right. It is so much of an investment in an orange grove they can not
afford to plant them where there is so much risk involved. In my case I have
such a small acreage, I feel I can come back and do my own grafting and
budding at not a tremendous expense to me. I would not attempt a large
acreage this far north I believe.
E: It is not like growing vegetables; if you loose them one year, well never mind.
H: That is right. It takes a little longer on citrus to get started again.
E: Do you believe that the climate of north central Florida has cooled to the point
that citrus is too risky for anyone to plant?
H: I do not really think so, in fact this year I have had a lot of interest from people; I
have sold quite a few trees this year. Once we have two or three years of
moderate weather, people get interested in planting citrus, just one or two in their
back yard. I tell people they can protect them with cardboard boxes until they
get too large for that. The larger the tree is, the more cold resistant it is. I
encourage people just to get two or three trees. I do not recommend a big
acreage; just as a hobby sort of thing, just to try it.
E: The bigger tree is not usually so affected by the freeze, but the really severe
freezes will affect the big trees.
H: Yes. The freezes we had in the 1980s (1983, 1984, and on up to 1986), it would
kill mature trees no matter what the size of them was. That was evidenced by
the fact that they were killed down on into Lake and Orange counties that year.
As the tree gets larger it gets cold resistant because it has more mass in the
trunk and the limbs. The first thing to get killed is the very tips of the limbs, the
real small limbs, the tender parts; but as the tree gets bigger, it is still more
E: I suppose you know of other growers that used to be growing around here and
have pulled upstate?
H: Yes. Mr. Barrington, whose land I purchased where my little grove is located,
used to have a little ten acre grove there, and he also had other citrus holdings.
He was an old time citrus grower. I suppose he was growing citrus back in the
1930s, and he passed away several years ago. While he was still living he gave
up on the citrus partly because of his age I guess. There were several other
growers whose names I do not know, but there were lots of small groves out
near Melrose and down around Orange Lake there are some pretty good size
holdings. The Huff family owns some large acreage down there and I do not
believe anyone is replanting any of those. So, after a series of freezes people
get discouraged; sometimes it is a matter of age versus __ who has done it all
his life. He gets too old to feel like he wants to make a comeback, so there are
not many young people who are interested in doing that I do not believe.
E: You do not consider giving up growing citrus because of the weather? You just
keep it small.
H: No. I have such a small acreage. I have gotten interested in doing it, but I just
feel like I just want to keep trying.
E: So, the root stocks you started out with were all sour orange?
E: And now you have been using?
H: Trifoliate orange it is related to citrus; the fruit is not edible, it is just about all
seed, but it is related to citrus so it is compatible. Just about all the kumquats
and sapsimmers were budded on trifoliate for years. The quality of the fruit from
trifoliate is very good too, similar to sour orange, that is another reason it is
desirable for root stock, for eating off the tree. For root stocks further down the
state, a lot of the commercial groves are on rough lemon. Rough lemon makes,
on a per acreage basis, more solids per acre and that is what plants for us
is through solids. But an individual fruit off of rough lemon does not have near
the eating quality the sour orange or the trifoliate does.
E: The original citrus, the original oranges that were growing here in Florida that
maybe the Indians carried the seeds around and so on, that was edible fruit, was
E: But they did not do any budding?
H: No. They were just seedling trees. You can plant a seed of most any variety
and it will grow. For an orange seed, I believe they recorded as many as a
dozen plants coming from one seed; it does not split in the middle like an acorn
does. It has as many little eyes inside; if you open up a citrus seed you see it
peels off in little flakes. Each one of those theoretically could sprout, but
normally you only get one or two sprouts from a seed. For seedling trees, a
seedling could vary from a parent tree because of cross pollination, whereas a
graft would be true to whatever the parent tree would be. A seedling tree is
usually pretty close to whatever the parent tree was. It takes a little longer for
them to bear, that is the disadvantage of growing from seed. It usually takes
seven, eight, or nine years for a seedling from the time the seed is planted for it
to produce fruit, whereas if you graft a tree, it might produce an orange, or one or
two fruit the next year. It will be in production in three, four, or five years.
E: When do you think that this is changed from just seedlings to just making a real
scientific production of it?
H: I really do not know, but I suppose after the turn of the century. I think probably
most of those in the 1800s were probably just seedling trees; I believe that is
correct. Of course a lot of the citrus came from the Mediterranean area, and
some of the citrus came from the Orient. It was that similar and the comquat
(they all have Japanese names) were from the Orient.
E: When did they bring those?
H: I really do not know, but it must have been probably in the early 1900s or late
1800s, but I am not positive about that.
E: Of your grove, what percent do you have in oranges versus hybrids, or
H: I have a total of about 400 trees, and I have about 100 naval oranges which is
about 25 percent of my grove. I have about the same number of hammond
orange, which is a good early eating orange. I have a little over 100 chinese
honey which is a mandarin type fruit, it is like a loose skin tangerine. Those
three varieties, the naval, hammond, and chinese honey make up three-fourths
of my grove. I have about fifty grapefruit trees, a few red grapefruit and a few
white grapefruit. I have about ten trees of meniola_ tangelo and about ten trees
of satsuma, and just a few one or two trees of different variety that I have. I have
two or three kinds of grapefruit, a couple of other tangelo trees, and two or three
blood oranges; so, I have a total of about fifteen different fruit. Mainly it is naval
orange, hammond orange, grapefruit, and chinese honey.
E: As far as cold hardiness is concerned, the oranges are most cold hardy, right?
H: The mandarin type and the tangerine types are generally considered a little more
cold hardy, orange next, and then grapefruit.
E: But lemons and limes, did anybody ever grow them up here?
H: I have some key limes here in my back yard. They are real susceptive to cold,
but they have survived the last two or three years. I guess I set those out about
1990, and they have survived. I have been picking fruit off of them. These are
just rooted cuttings, they are not grafted trees. The limes and lemons are not
really cold resistant so you do not see very many of them up here.
E: Yes, so they were not grown up here in commercial places.
H: No, I do not believe they were.
E: They are always trying to develop new kinds of oranges, right? There is this new
H: Ambersweet, I do not have any of those and I understand they are supposed to
be more cold resistant. Of course it has not been really tested I guess since we
have not had any severe freezes that I know of since it was produced. I believe
that is correct. I do not have any of the trees in my grove, but I have questioned
them. What gives it it's cold hardiness because it's origin is a cross between a
tangelo and an orange at the first cross I believe. Of course a tangelo is a cross
between a tangerine and a grapefruit, the grapefruit being less cold resistant; I
have often wondered why it would be more cold resistant.
E: Maybe it is just hype.
H: Yes, but it is according to the literature more cold resistant. I do not know for
sure because I have never tried to grow any of those. I keep thinking maybe one
of these days I will get a couple of them and put it in my grove just to compare it
to the other trees.
E: Now oranges mature over a very large part of the year and they are divided into
H: Midseason, and then late fruit. Most of my fruit is early fruit and the reason for
that is that we are so far north that once you get a crop of fruit on the tree, if you
have early fruit you have a better chance of maturing it before the severe freezes
come. Of course you do not always succeed in that, but the fruit I have gets ripe
enough to eat from about the end of November till Christmas time. Most of our
severe freezes occur after about the end of December up through February; that
is one of the reasons I chose the citrus that I do have. However, I have got just a
very few trees like the maniola tangelo that matures in January and February,
but I only have just a very few trees that I can afford to lose. I would lose the fruit
farm if we did have a very severe cold.
E: As you move further down in Florida, the growers change the variety of fruit.
H: One of the big varieties for concentrate is the valencia orange, that is the late
orange. The midseason oranges are __ pineapple oranges, and there are a
lot of new varieties that I am not familiar with. I still have the old varieties. The
early fruit that I have is hammond and another early orange is the parson brown,
those are early oranges, round oranges. The midseason would be the pineapple
and the valencia. I am not sure what the statistics are for today, but when I was
still working for SCS, I remember the valencia orange was probably the largest
single acreage because it so desirable for concentrate. It matures in April or
May; it has real good solid content, so it is desirable for concentrate.
E: April and May? There are oranges that mature even later than that are there
H: There a few varieties, one called __ and even the valencia would even be
good on up into June and July. On the other hand, the early oranges, the
hammond orange is getting edible probably in October. It is not at it's best until
about November. You have some fruit that will be good up until June or July,
and then some that start getting edible in late October. So you do not have too
many months in between there that you can not have citrus. The satsuma is
another very early fruit, it is a mild fruit like a tangerine it is a mandarin type.
Even when the skin is still green, the fruit is getting sweet enough to be edible.
E: Of course the color of the fruit or the color of the skin does not really have any
effect on the sweetness.
H: Now some varieties are not sweet until after it has turned color like on the
grapefruit. A lot of the citrus fruit just about time it starts to turn is getting edible.
It is a matter of taste, I guess for some people; what is tart to one person is
sweet to another.
E: Without mentioning any other areas by name, the differences between Florida
and other parts of the United States, do they grow any of the same varieties that
H: They grow some of the same varieties. The naval orange is grown in California
and Texas, I believe. Texas, I think, specializes in grapefruit, they grow more
grapefruit than oranges I believe. A lot of these things have changed; they had
severe freezes out there too the same years that we had ours. I have not kept
up too much with statistics since then, but grapefruit was one of the things that
Texas was famous for. Years ago, Florida was producing about 80 percent of
the citrus in the world. You hear a lot about California's naval and lemons. One
thing about it is that the California naval is more uniform in size; for naval
oranges in Florida, a tree might have an orange on it that is the same size as a
grapefruit and others real small, so they are not very uniform in size.
E: Of course each area figures that they grow the best.
H: Yes, that is right.
E: Florida says we grow the most tasty, right?
H: That is right. We say the other fruit does not have as much juice in it as ours
when they are skinned and all.
E: It may look better in the fruit basket, but they are not as juicy.
H: The Indian River section in Florida has developed a name for itself; part of the
reason it is more desirable, I feel, is that it is on sour orange root stock which
gives it better eating quality. A higher percentage of the fresh fruit shipped from
Florida is shipped from Indian River. In other words, less percentage of ours
goes into concentrate than it does throughout the state. For a big part of the rest
of the state, the citrus goes into concentrate rather than fresh fruit; however,
there is a lot of fresh fruit that the interior grows too, but Indian River has a
higher percentage of fresh fruit than concentrate.
E: Now of course we have competition from Mexico, right?
H: That is right, Mexico and Brazil. Brazil has tremendous plantings. I read back in
the 1980s that there was one family in Brazil that controlled an acreage of citrus
equal to more than half total acreage in Florida. They are having problems with
disease and different kind of adversities down there the same as what we have
up here, so I do not know that they still have an awful big acreage. Mexico and
Brazil are both competitors, and a lot of U.S. companies are buying concentrate
and mixing it. You can look on a lot of your containers and it will say made from
juice from Brazil and the United States.
E: Do you think this new NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is going
to affect the sale of citrus here in Florida?
H: I am not that much of a __ I read one side and I believe one way, then I read
something converse to that, but I can not help believe that it is going to hurt
Florida citrus because the American public is going to buy the cheapest fruit that
they can get. I just believe that Mexico, Brazil, and those countries have
cheaper labor and sometimes less descriptions on pesticides and that sort of
thing. They are bound to be able to produce it cheaper than Florida can.
E: Not to mention taxes on the land. ?
H: The skin is too thick, I do not like thick skinned fruit. They ought to see if they
need to change the fertilizer.
E: Of course with the citrus industry moving south, they have had a trade off. They
may have warmer weather, but they have different soil, right?
H: That is right, yes.
E: So they have to rely more on fertilizers?
H: A few years ago in the 1970s and 1980s, the Soil Conservation Service could
give technical assistance to farmers with the drainage, irrigation, and soil
problems. We did not even recommend planting citrus on wetland soil, on
flatwood type soils because of the high water table, but that drastically changed
because most of the plantings these days is on that type soil. They have gone to
deep drainage where they can establish a root zone for the trees, so that has just
completely changed the type soils that we grow citrus on. In the early days, they
planted it on the ridge soils, the well drained soils, and stayed away from the
E: Of course, all those irrigation systems are expensive. So, you have the tradeoff
that you are not going to lose the trees to the winter, but you pay.
H: You sure do. That is right. When you are on flatwood soil, the water
management is more complicated because the citrus tree is normally a deep
rooted tree, but if you put it on flatwood soil, it becomes a shallow rooted tree.
You have to maintain that water level fairly constant because if you let it drop to
low the roots run out of water, if you let it come to high, they are in the water and
you get root damage from too much water. It is really more of a water
management problem on the flatwood soil than it is on the well drained soil.
E: Not to mention what it may do to the environment by tinkering with the drainage.
H: They have put in some tremendous groves down in St. Lucie county, over
towards La Belle, and all over south Florida just about. Tremendous acreage is
growing on flat, wet soils.
E: As far as cold protection is concerned, did you use heaters?
H: I did not use any heaters, I contemplated doing that but someone told me that I
would need a heater, a grove burner for each tree this far north. After the 1984
and 1983 freezes, there were lots of heaters for sale, and I was thinking about
buying some, but then I figured out how much it would cost for just a few of
those. It would probably have costs about ten dollars per burner per night for the
diesel fuel, and for the 300 trees I had at the time, I decided that $3000 was
more than I wanted to spend on it. The only protection I gave my trees when
they were young was that I backed soil above the union where the graft was
made. I would pile the soil up about a foot and one-half or two feet high, just
about a two foot diameter corner of soil around the tree and that would protect it
above the graft. The idea for that is if it gets killed down to the top of the bank,
and that is still above where the graft was made, when you take the soil down
from around the tree it will sprout out from above the graft. You will not have to
regraft the tree. If you let it get killed down to the root structures you have to go
back and reestablish the graft.
E: Now that banking, that is done at the approach of winter? It stays, but you can
not keep it on all year, can you?
H: What I have done is wait till the last minute, of course just having a few trees you
can do that but if you had a tremendous acreage, you would have to get started
earlier. There is a disadvantage, and then you have a warm spell in the winter,
the warm moist soil sometimes will causes some problems fungus, ants, and
things that get in that bank and destroy the bark on the tree. I like to not have
them banked any longer than I have to. Normally, what I would do a couple days
before the coming of real severe cold spell is go out and bank them. I have in
the middle of the winter gone out and pulled part of that bank down to let a little
air get in around the tree so it would not decay the bark.
E: If there is cold weather you have to go and put it all back?
H: Yes, I put it all back again. I did that for about three or four years, from 1983
through 1986. You do not lose all that time when it gets killed to the bank, your
root is still growing, so then the next year it comes out and makes a lot more
growth than if you started all over again. There is an advantage of protecting the
tree. It looks pretty bad to see it all killed down to the bank, but you are not
losing that much time because by 1987 I was picking fruit off the trees, whereas
if I had started from the tree at the first of 1987, I would not have had any fruit.
E: Nowadays they use wraps, some sort of a plastic around the stem of the tree.
H: Yes, I never have used that, but I understand that it is pretty effective too. In a
couple of days I can bank my whole grove, so I just use soil around it. The
wraps are used more than the soil banking because of the labor.
E: I get the citrus magazine and it is full of advertisements for this kind of a wrap or
that kind of a wrap.
H: I never have had any experience with the wraps, so I really do not know much
E: Well, they advertise the type and the material it is made out of, whether it will
resist ants, bugs, or fungus.
H: There would be an advantage of that over soil, that is right.
E: Of course, it would have to be bought, as opposed to dirt.
H: I do not know how many years they are usable, but they can be kept and used
for several years in succession, I guess. They are not that easily destroyed.
That would save a lot on labor. They do have machines attached to tractors for
banking; we did a lot of that. They had a conveyor belt on the side that would
circle the tree with the tractor and it would shovel the dirt up on the trees. Even
that is getting into expense.
E: Not to mention, I would think difficult to get to the trees, I mean trees are seven
H: That is right. Now they are too close to do that. Another thing is that if you are
not careful with a citrus tree, the roots go out a tremendous distance, and there
are little feeder roots just above the surface; so any time you start digging a
whole or plowing around a citrus tree, you are cutting along the roots. There is a
danger of introducing foot rock which I have in my grove somewhat __ it is a
fungus, and anytime you cut roots you have a chance of getting some of that in
your root system. The rocks on a large scale are probably your best way to go.
E: There is also a system of wind machines?
H: That is right. They used to set those up down through Lake and Orange
counties in the low spots where there were some depressions. The cold tends to
settle in the low spots, so they would put those wind machines in the low areas
just to get the air circulating so that there would not be quite as much damage to
the trees. That was not done a tremendous acreage, you would see them in
spots where they had a real cold problem. In fact, as you drive down U.S. 27
years ago after a freeze, (the freezes where it did not kill the whole grove) you
could see a line where those depressions where the trees were damaged and up
the hill they were not hurt at all. That is where they would sit the wind machines.
E: But, for current wisdom, they do not use the wind machines?
H: I do not believe they do.
E: Then there are sprinklers. Water is also a form of cold protection they say.
H: Yes, but you have to really manage that properly or you will do more damage
than you will good. There is a lot of misinformation put out about use of
sprinklers, in fact, some of the weather people on t.v. and the newspaper have
said to go out and wet your shrubbery down, and to coat it fast so it will protect it
against a freeze. You are doing more damage than you are good if you just
simply wet it down and ice it over because when that ice starts to evaporate, as
the wind blows over it, it will and the temperature will be lower as it starts to
evaporate. In order to do any good with sprinklers, you have to apply enough
water to weigh more to overcome the rate of evaporation. The stronger the wind,
the higher the rate of evaporation, so you have to take into account the wind
velocity and other factors. The benefit from sprinkling is not just from coating it
with ice, but the benefit is obtained when the water you are applying to the tree is
irrigation. When it changes from liquid to solid a tremendous amount of heat is
released from that reaction. I can not remember the figures, but it is
tremendous. That is the reason you must continue applying water to it and keep
it freezing. That is where you get the benefit, not just icing it over because that
does not really do much good.
E: They used to have overhead sprinklers.
H: That is what I use in my little grove for irrigation.
E: Now they have these microsprinklers.
H: They have microdrip and all kinds of little spoils. They are evidently pretty
effective, but they have to be managed properly; you have to direct the water at
the right spot. I do not know if they use those very much in larger trees or not,
but especially on younger trees they are. It is a tremendous saver of water; it
does not use near the water of a overhead sprinkler. An overhead sprinkler
when used for irrigation, on a sunny day and with wind blowing, you lose about
35 or 40 percent through evaporation. The small ones are a lot less loss of
water by using those. These days with water conservation being so important,
they are using those more.
E: How much time in north central Florida would you need to irrigate?
H: My little grove would survive with no irrigation. You get better growth from your
trees and better production if you irrigate somewhat. I have a small irrigation
system; it is really not adequate, but I use it when the season gets very dry. I go
out and put enough water to feel like I am helping maintain the tree growth
properly. It will survive especially if it has a soil that has a clay subsoil. Citrus
fruits will get down near the clay and the clay holds moisture pretty well. The old
grove that was there before I put my grove in did not have any irrigation, but it
was doing fine. It would depend on the type of soil what the benefit would be.
As the tree gets larger and the roots get deeper, it will survive pretty well. Most
of the groves down the ridge were not irrigated, but they had begun to put
irrigation in a lot of them. The old groves were not even irrigated at all. The
Indian River section, which is the majority of the flatwood type citrus in the old
days, had to maintain water so they were irrigating using the ditches for
maintaining water levels in the ditches that was there source of irrigation. In
recent years, I think they have put in overhead irrigation, and now I suppose they
are going to the __ and microjet type irrigation. I do not think that they are
using much of the microjet on the large trees, but they are using some. They
can not use cold protection on the large trees, I do not believe, but they just wet
the soil under the trees and save a lot of water.
E: Of course, as the citrus industry moves further south and they have different
land. They are trying to keep the water from drowning the trees, so I do not
suppose they need as much drift irrigation.
H: I think that is why they maintain a water table in the groves. They put them on
double beds or single beds with deep ditches spaced ever so often so that they
can control it and use pumps. Some of them even put them in conservation
areas, where during flood times they can pump water into these conservation
areas and use that as a source of water to pump out of when they need irrigation
E: Since you did not use heaters that you have to light when the weather is getting
bad, but rather banked them probably earlier in the season. You did not have to
pay much attention to the weather reports and so on because what was done
was done, what was not going to get done.
H: I usually watch it because I would wait till the last minute to bank my trees. I
would watch to see if I was going to have to go out a day or two ahead of time
and start banking. The people that use the heaters would stay up all night and
watch the reports. When it would get to a certain temperature, maybe twenty-
five or twenty-four degrees, they would have crews on standby to go out and
start lighting heaters which is a tremendous chore.
E: Labor intensive also.
H: That is right. Because you would have to start early enough, as the temperature
began to drop, you would have to have enough people to get them all fired up
before you would have damage to some of the grove. If you waited too late, in
the two or three more hours it took to get the heaters lighted, you could have lost
E: Would you consider that the weather station or television weather reports were
accurate enough or did you listen to that all weather radio?
H: I listened to all those, but I think the commercial growers use the state weather
station broadcasts more than they would the newspaper or the regular television.
In fact, some nights, I have listened to my little weather radio, I have called them
on the telephone to get the forecast, I have watched television and turned to the
weather station on television. Sometimes, they were in agreement and
sometimes they were not, so there is a question as to which one is giving the
proper information. It is a real chore and kind of frustrating to know what to do
when it is getting down to the borderline and you know you have got to do
something. If you think about sprinkler irrigation, I sprinkled my little nursery in
the 1983 freezes, and it saved them but you do a tremendous amount of
damage because it loads tree up with ice and splits the trees up badly.
Sometimes you find out later it was not cold enough to have needed it, but you
have already damaged the trees. Information about weather is very important to
E: Of course you do not have citrus growers around, but would citrus growers check
with each other?
H: I would imagine they probably do, and kind of get a consensus of what is going
on. Of course, I do not because nobody else is growing citrus around me.
E: For cold protection, there is a method where they have changed the distance
that they plant the trees from each other, is that correct?
H: They are doing that and that may be part of the reason, but I think one of the
reasons they are putting them together is that a citrus tree will start producing
when it is four or five years old. The foliage of the tree is only probably about
five or six feet in diameter. If they put them in the traditional old spacing of
twenty to twenty-five feet, you have got a lot of wasted space in between there.
If you put them closer, you will get more production off those trees, and now they
have gone to hedging trees. Whenever two limbs overlap and join trees, it starts
shading out the lower branches and you start losing production on those
branches. They go in and hedge those trees and that exposes the limbs to the
light. Since they have started putting them closer together, they hedge them all
and it looks like a hedge roll almost. I think they are putting some of them about
ten feet apart in the rows which seems unheard of years ago.
E: Citrus trees as a rule before were not trimmed or shaped.
H: In my grove, I do not trim them; the only time I do any trimming is when I have
some broken limbs or that sort of thing. Maybe sometimes a tree will send out
what is called a watersprout, a real tender shoot that will stick way out to the side
that is real weak, and I will prune that off. Normally, I do not prune my citrus.
E: Yes, it was not done.
H: In fact, I asked Mr. Barrington, the old man that used to own the grove where my
grove is, how far apart should I space the trees because I was thinking about
setting out some trees. He said the younger they are, the farther apart you put
the trees because you expect them to get to be big trees. You do not see very
many of those big trees now because they were all killed out in the severe
freezes. For some reason, if an orange tree has a good root system, they will be
tremendous in size.
E: What is the average length of an orange tree, how long will it grow?
H: It is a lot longer living tree than apple, plums, and pear trees; maybe not pear,
but at least apple and peach trees. I really do not know, but the place that my
dad purchased in 1939 were root sprouts from the 1899 freeze, so those trees
were forty years old then. They lived until the 1962 freeze, so they were sixty
years old. The cold is what killed them, but if you did not have a cold climate to
contend with, I do not know how long a citrus tree would live. There are some
root problems, but lots of times you have trees that do not have root problems,
so I would think that they live seventy-five or eighty years. I do not really know,
but they have a long life if they do not have some real severe problem.
E: You mentioned earlier about the thorns on trees. I do not think that many people
know that orange trees have thorns when they are small, right?
H: Yes, we used to think that just the old seedling sour oranges had the thorns, but
even my grafting trees are not nearly as thorny as my seedling tree would be.
The old seedling oranges and the sour orange trees would have thorns probably
two and one-half or three inches long which were very sharp. Seems like
sometimes the young trees have got quite a few thorns when you first graft them,
but when the trees get older, if you look closely you will see thorns on the mature
trees. They do not seem to be the problem that they are on young trees or
seedling trees which have tremendous thorns. The trifoliate root stock that I use
is about the thorniest plant you ever saw. You lose all that because you graft it
about four or five inches above ground, so you never have problems from thorns
with trifoliate. There are some thorns on grafted trees too, but they are not
nearly as severe and long as the seedling trees are.
E: As the tree becomes older, the thorn is shorter, is it a small thorn?
H: I guess that is probably right, but a grafted tree just does not have the size thorn
that the seedling tree has. Now the seedling tree will have long thorns even
when it is a mature tree. Years ago when we had old seedling trees, a friend of
ours at church who was in the military and from Ohio had never been around an
orange tree, and he wanted to climb the tree and pick some oranges. He did not
realize it had thorns till he got up in the tree; he scratched himself up pretty well
before he got out of the tree, but he found out that orange trees do have thorns.
E: It is possible also to have orange blossoms and fruit on the tree at the same
H: Yes, in fact, my grove is getting ready to bloom right now. On the early fruits, I
should have picked everything off but there is always one or two still clean. That
is more so on the valencia orange; the valencia orange blooms the same time
the other trees do, yet the fruits not mature until April, May, and June. That is
one reason the valencia does not have quite as heavy a crop as the other trees
because it has competition with the old fruit still on the tree and the new blooms
forming. With just about all citrus you could leave the early fruit on if you did not
want to pick it off; it would still be usable until January or February and that is the
time trees start to bloom. Mine are in full bloom now and it is just the first of
E: So you do not have to pick the fruit off? Will it stay for a while without rotting?
H: It is not like an apple or a peach; once they get ripe you have to pick it off or it
will drop. An orange usually drops off a tree only if it has been damaged or if
there is something wrong with it. An orange will stay on the tree from the time it
first gets ripe right on through the season. That is the beauty of oranges; you do
not have to pick them off all at one time, you can pick them as you need them
just for__ use.
E: A new method of cold protection they talk about is modern thinking and grove
maintenance and how they are an important part of keeping the ground clean.
H: I do not disc my grove.
E: What is discing?
H: Discing is pulling a disc behind a tractor to cultivate the soil to destroy weeds.
E: Turning it over?
H: Yes, turning the soil over. You would expose the soil to the sun and you would
get some radiant heat from the exposed soil. I do not do that. I mow my middles
with a mowing machine behind my tractor, and then I spray with a weed control
herbicide around my trees where I can not get to them with my disc. The reason
I do not disc is because the feeder roots on citrus is very close to the surface of
the soil. If you are discing you have to put herbs on the disc to keep them from
digging too deeply in the shallows, but even those will cut the little feeder roots. I
feel like that it is important not to do that because you are possibly introducing
__ into your roots, and you are also cutting the roots which are needed to pick
up moisture. I realize that you get a little less cold protection than you would if
you had the bare ground, but I feel like the benefits from keeping the roots are
more important than what little cold protection I would get. In the years that my
trees have gotten damaged from the cold, it would not have made any difference
if I had bare sand or grass because it just got so cold it would have killed them
E: So between the trees or under the trees, it can either be turned over ground or
you can let grass grow but it is mowed.
H: I mow my middles and I spray around the weeds, but after the tree grows a little
better, it pretty well shades out underneath the tree itself. So you do not have as
much weed problem under the tree after they get a little older, but when they are
young, they will have a real weed problem if you do not do something with it. All
the oranges and grapefruits have a bushy type growth, they shape them.
E: Of course weeds like to grow wherever there is nutrition and water.
H: When I fertilize my trees, it always makes the grass grow a lot better. You can
see a green circle around every tree where I have put out fertilizer. You fertilize
your trees and your grass, but then when I mow, I leave the grass on the ground
so that some of the nutrition gets back in the soil roots.
E: Are there professional companies that do grove maintenance?
H: Yes, a lot of commercial groves are maintained by commercial companies. In
fact, they do grove maintenance, and I believe probably have picking crews so
that the contractor will have them picked. A lot of absentee owners in citrus
because people live up north, and even if they live in Florida, they may not want
to do the work that is involved so they contract out and have grove maintenance
E: So they have made a commercial thing out of it.
H: They have all the equipment for picking, tractors, discs, and the equipment for
fertilizing. In fact, years ago there was a pretty good size grove down in Arcadia.
They had several thousand acres that were divided up into one acre plots; each
little plot had a name plate on it. People all over the United States had bought
one little acre. I remember seeing one from Iowa. The whole grove was under a
maintenance contract, so the people that owned each little plot did not have to
do anything, but they could come down to pick their fruit and have a lot of fun
showing people their orange grove I guess.
E: Or just talk about the fact that they own an orange grove.
H: Yes, that is right.
E: What do they consider the member number of trees to call it a grove?
H: I only have three acres and I call mine a grove. In fact, Mr. Brennan came out to
my grove not too long ago, and he called it an orchard. The man that was with
him said that you do not want to call this an orchard, this is a grove. Gary said
that technically it is an orchard which he defined as a cluster of trees, so
theoretically it is an orchard. He said this is an orchard because a grove is kind
of a random type growth, not in rows like an orchard. I do not think you will find
many citrus people calling them orange orchards. Groves is the standard term.
E: Yes, I do not think they are interested in that word at all.
H: I do not think so either. We use orchard when we think about peaches and
apples I guess.
E: So you have 500 acres?
H: The total property is 500 acres. Most of our land is in woods. I have about 125
acres of improved pasture, and the rest of it is a mixed variety of woods. Some
of it has pretty wet soil, some have cyprus, laurel oak, water oak, and live oak;
but I have been planting some pine trees. I have about sixty acres of planted
pine that I am gradually adding ten to fifteen acres to a year.
E: As a commercial growth?
H: Yes. That is a long range thing, but with taxes you need to have something you
can produce to maintain your taxes. About half of it is grazed; like I said I have a
total of 500 acres. About 125 acres of it is improved pasture, and there is a forty
acre sand bottom lake that is in the middle of the property that I use for cattle
water to keep me from having to pump water to the cows.
E: So this pasture has cattle on it?
H: Yes, beef cattle. I have about fifty cow; they help pay my taxes.
E: What about the timber?
H: The pine that was on there was scattered pine, but we had it cut several years
ago. Now I am planting in blocks of about ten acres at a time. After we get it
cleared up, I hire someone to machine plant most of it. I am gradually getting
someone to put in the pine trees.
E: Would you say that under the best conditions citrus is more profitable per acre
H: Yes, much more.
E: Much more?
H: Yes, much more. I was thinking not too long ago that the little grove I have got of
only three acres was planted in 1983. I picked six bushels off my Chinese
honey, which is the mandarin type fruit that I have, and I sold each bushel for
sixteen dollars a bushel. That was $100 worth of fruit on one tree. The next
year I projected that the tree would yield eight to ten bushels of fruit, and I
expected to make more money than before. The cold hit it though, and froze it
out. So, if you think about that, it makes the pine trees look a little bit better, but
in the long run there is almost no comparison between what you can make if you
are in an area where you can grow citrus. There is a lot more expense, but there
is a lot more value in the citrus than there is pine trees.
E: So the pine tree you are growing are for the lumbar?
H: It would depend on how long you wanted to grow them. The trees that we had
cut were just natural stands; some of them were large enough for pulp for
plywood. There is a large plywood plant, Georgia Pacific, over at Hawthorne.
The larger trees they cut, I have forgotten what the dimensions were, went to the
plywood plant. Some of those were large of enough for lumber, but we did not
have enough of it. The bulk of what we are planting now will be for pulp wood.
You can start thinning in about fifteen years after you plant the trees depending
on the soil type. They go in and take out every fourth or fifth row just to thin
them, and let the remaining trees grow a few more years before they are large
enough for pulp wood. Pulp wood is the shortest cycle in the timber industry.
The next would be plywood, but then for __ it takes probably forty or fifty years
to get them that size. That is a long range plan.
E: It is a shame to cut it down then, but we need it.
H: On our property, you can still see some tremendous stumps out through the
woods. Evidently the well drained soil produced yellow pine or long leaf pine at
one time. Some of the stumps are three to four feet in diameter; it makes you
wonder what that place looked like 100 years ago.
E: What about planting trees that can be cut for Christmas trees?
H: I have not done any of that, but there are lots of small farmers that have started
to do that. In fact, right near our place someone has a little plantation of four or
five acres of Christmas trees. They let people come out and cut their own trees.
That is getting to be pretty popular.
E: Popular, as compared to profitable?
H: I think it would be profitable. You would need to get trees that are adapted to
this area, some of the sand pines or a cypress variety. Most of the trees we buy
down here for Christmas trees are not adapted to Florida conditions; most of the
pines are the ones that have adapted down here. The other type trees that grow
up in the Carolinas and further north would not grow down here. I went through
North Carolina this past summer, and there was a tremendous number of people
planting Christmas trees up there. It makes me think that the price of Christmas
trees should be reduced, but I do not know if they ever will or not. An awful lot of
small farmers used to grow __ of planting Christmas trees in the Carolinas.
E: They may develop a tree that looks like a good Christmas tree and that will grow
H: The Choctawhatchee sand pine that they are growing here makes a pretty tree; it
is a short-leaf pine which is one of the best ones for Christmas trees.
E: Do you think in general the best economic decision for a citrus grower in north
central Florida is to remain here, plant here, or plant further south?
H: If I was thinking about somebody on a large scale I think I would recommend to
go further south.
E: And stay there?
H: Yes, in my case, just two or three acres is a lot of fun to work with and after a
while it comes down to the challenge to see if you can make it in spite of the
odds. I would not want to invest a tremendous amount in north central Florida
E: Do you think that if someone wanted to invest in citrus that it would be better to
plant a new grove, or to buy an existing grove on an economic bases?
H: I really do not have too good a bases for answering that. It would depend on
what the price is, and if you could get a reasonable price on an existing grove.
You need someone to advise you as to the health of the grove because there
are so many fungus diseases and other things that can affect the health of the
grove. You need to be sure that you are getting a good healthy grove. Years
ago, my brother bought a little grove down near Weirsdale, and that was a real
good buy for him. All the advice he got though, worked out differently from the
way he thought it would. He had citrus growers, who were friends of his, to come
in and check it over. The grove had survived some of the earlier freezes and
they thought that it was an ideal site, but the freeze of 1962 came along and
wiped him out at about the time he started paying for the grove. His income from
the grove was to help pay for the grove. The man that he bought it from would
not extend the time, so he lost what he had in it and the opportunity to make
anything at all. That was an existing grove and had a lot of variety of fruit. So, if
you are going to buy an existing grove, it would depend what the condition of the
grove would be and the price you would be paying for it. If it were my own, I
would go and buy a good piece of citrus soil and start from scratch by putting in
my own trees.
E: How long would it take before it would give enough fruit to make an economic
H: I am not sure exactly, but I do know that they used to consider statistics which I
could get from the Soil Conservation Service in which they would classify groves
as nonbearing and bearing. The trees would be put in the bearing category
when they were about four or five years old from the time they would sit in the
grove. That is about the time you start getting enough fruit to bring in some
profit. I have budded trees and the next year they would have some fruit on
them, but not enough to be commercially valuable. In fact, when the trees are
real small, you are really better off to pick the fruit off of them for the benefit of
the tree and not have any fruit on the tree for a couple of years. After four or five
years you should start getting a pretty good return on it.
E: How do you sell your fruit?
H: I sell a lot of my chinese honey, the tangerine type, by word of mouth. People
call me a month or so before they are even ripe asking when they are going to
be ready. So, I sell a lot of mine to friends of mine because I do not have that
big of a production yet. In 1987 and 1988, I sold grapefruit and chinese honey
to the citrus shop down at Citra. They contract with a grove down in the Indian
River section and they usually buy all their fruit from them. They do not really
buy many fruits locally.
E: It is a little bit of a fake, the citrus store, because the customer thinks it is local
citrus and it is not.
H: No, it is not. They have a little grove out there that is about to start producing I
guess. I carry mine up to the Farmer's Market here in Gainesville, which is open
just on Saturday mornings. In 1988 and 1989, we took citrus out there, and at
that time they were only open from about 8:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. We sold
about $600 worth of citrus in about three and one-half hours. When you have
good fruit and people find out it is locally grown they want to buy it. Most of the
time they ask what part of south Florida the fruit comes from, and when I tell
them it comes from near Hawthorne, they are kind of flabbergasted. If I get
through the next two or three years of freezes, I will have a lot more citrus than I
have now. The chinese honey is so popular that I have not been able to supply it
to the people that want it.
E: Are there any other citrus growers that market in the farmer's market?
H: This year and last year, there was one family that lived here in Gainesville that
have about 200 trees over near Crescent City. They bring their fruit over here
even though they have just a small quantity, even less than I have. There is
another man that has a grove out near Melrose who is an organic citrus grower.
He did not have any at the market this year so I do not know where he sells his
fruit at. He is getting into the organic trade.
E: As a matter of fact, that is Robin Loreo, is it not?
H: Yes, that is right.
E: He was the one who gave me your name.
H: I never have seen his groves, but he has been over to my place. I believe I will
be able to sell all the chinese honey that I produce locally now. Each year I go
down to the credit union and give them my price list so they know what I have
got. They'll give me a list of orders, and I bag fruit and carry it all down there at
one time. I thought about contacting businesses and taking a sample of fruit and
my price list to them. I would have them make a list of orders and just deliver the
fruit to them. I could sell a good bit of fruit that way.l did that for Pontiac this
year; he wanted to give fruit to his employees. He bought quite a few boxes of
fruit which I carried down on the flatbed trailer. I brought bags so all the
employees came out and took what they wanted. The owner paid for all of them
and then gave them to his employees. If I were further down in the state and out
of the native cold, this chinese honey would be a tremendous seller. It does not
ship real well, but it is such a good quality fruit that I do not have any trouble
E: What do you consider as the major threats to the citrus industry here in Florida?
Sometimes the newspaper mentions canker.
H: I think they have gotten canker subdued, but there is another little insect, a mite
or an aphid, that has them concerned. One of the things that they are concerned
about and have been for years is competition with Brazil. When I was in school
at the University of Florida, there were a lot of Latin American students. I kidded
that we have taught them how to grow citrus and now they are going home and
really competing with us. Such things as photophera, which is a foot rock that
once you get it into your grove, you have got to fight it. I do not think that you
can eradicate it, but you have to keep treating for it which is expensive. That is
what I had in my little grove. I never had any problem with my first grove, but I
bought trees from a commercial nursery in 1990 when I had to replant my grove
after the 1989 freeze; I believe that is when I introduced it to my grove. I
suppose I brought it in on the roots; now I have footrot, and I have lost thirty or
E: It spreads?
H: Yes, it spreads. When you get ailed of rainfall, it spreads through the soil, splash
up on the tree, and the ants will carry it up on the trunk. It completely destroys
the root system; you have to pull the tree out, treat the soil, and start all over
again. I had never heard much about it, but since I have had it in my grove, I am
more aware of it and read about the problem all over the state. Ever so often we
have a fruit fly epidemic. My brother used to be an inspector for the state and he
would tell about how people on international flights into Miami would try to bring
something in by hiding it in their suitcases. With people traveling all over the
world and coming into Florida, we are really fighting against ourselves when they
do things like that. Not only with agricultural interest, but also with citrus when
we have all these things to contend with. You never know from one year to the
next what is going to be the next problem.
E: This cancer is pretty well licked?
H: Yes. One of them was called the A-strain; that was the one that effected the
Asian strain, and it effected the fruit. It was only found in just a few groves down
on the west coast of Florida in Manatee and Sarasota counties. They
quarantined that area, but have now removed it. The other one is the nursery
strain which they found in nurseries; they burned a lot of the nursery trees. As
of last July, I have to keep records of every tree I sold, who I sold it to, and keep
an inventory of trees in my little grove. They did relax that last July for nursery
E: They did that to stop the spread of the cancer? What is cancer?
H: I do not know. If it effects the fruit on a bearing tree, it will defoliate I believe and
lose it's fruit. I do not know if it is an organism. I really do not know what it is. I
guess it is a fungus type cross. There are two strains; the nursery strain which
effects the young trees, and the A-strain or Asian strain which effects the mature
trees and the fruit.
E: How does it spread?
H: It will spread through the air I guess, because they would quarantine groves and
not allow any movement. People walking in the groves would have to disinfect
their clothing and their vehicles driving in and out of the groves. It was carried
more through the soil, I guess.
E: You had to register every tree that you sold to somebody?
H: Yes, you would have to get a cancer permit to sell the trees. We had the regular
inspectors that would come and do regular plain industry inspection. They also
had a special cancer program in those days, but later they let the regular
inspector handle both of them. Whenever I would sell a tree, I would put down
the name of the person who purchased it, their address and phone number, and
what kind of trees they bought. When the inspector came, he would take that
and inventory my trees to see if I lost any trees through diet, and I would have to
account for those. When they first started this, you had to fill out a complete
form. If I sold some to a feed store, they would have to have a supply of those
forms, and supply one to each person buying a tree.
E: Do you feel that this was too much government interference or do you feel that it
was really necessary?
H: Most people think it was just a hoax, but I can see both sides of it. This
happened when Doyle Conner was Commissioner of Agriculture (1961-1990).
He was relying on his technical people who said they thought it was cancer, and
if it were cancer, it was such a serious thing that they could not afford to take a
chance on it. They had to maybe go overboard on it to be sure to control it if that
is what it was. It turned out that there were questions as to if it really were
cancer of the nursery strain. I know that a lot of people were really unhappy
about having their trees burned, but the state reimbursed them for some of the
costs. I had to pay one dollar and one-half excise tax for every tree we sold back
to the state to help reimburse for the money that was spent on the trees that
were burned. It was an expensive operation. I for one am kindly glad that they
were diligent enough to try and control it if that is what it was. It created a lot of
bad feelings, I am sure.
E: Do they have the same problem in the other states with cancer?
H: I do not know if they have had any cancer problems in Texas, Arizona, and
California. Every so often they will have something like fruit flies. We had that
here in Florida and there was also ailed of criticism about that program too. Mr.
Gunn, the former head of the Soil Conservation Service, used to work for the
extension service and said that there is a lot of skepticism about the fruit fly. He
was out in a grove one time and identified the fruit fly and a grower responded by
asking how do you know that is fruit fly. Gunn turned to the tree and asked the
grower what kind of fruit is that on the tree? The grower said it was a tangerine.
Gunn said how do you know it is a tangerine? He said that is what they told me;
it is a tangerine. Gunn replied that is the reason I know it is a fruit fly; somebody
told me it was. There was a lot of criticism about that. Who knows if we are
overboard or not. My brother started working in the state division up in __ on
the fruit fly epidemic. They would trap fruit flies in the yards and had traps
scattered all over the state. A lot of homeowners were upset about the planes;
they claimed every time the planes would come over and spray for the fruit fly,
the flowers would start wilting. My brother would have to go out and check on
every one of these complaints. One lady said her plants were so dry and they
needed water. Every program is well intentioned, but there was ailed of criticism
from people who do not understand what is at stake. Maybe they do go
overboard at times, but they almost have to be sure that they get things under
E: Historically, did they have a cancer problem here in Florida, say 100 years ago?
Is this something new?
H: It seems like I read somewhere that they had an outbreak of it way back in the
early 1900s. There was not much citrus growing then, so that controlled it I
guess. This is the first time in my life that I know about.
E: What about Mexico and Brazil, do they have these problems too?
H: I really do not know, but I do not imagine they do.
E: Would you like to wish something on them?
H: Yes. They do have a lot of soil problems and insect problems because there in
the tropics. They have a lot of insect and disease problems down there that are
coming to light. A lot of the time, like here in Florida when you did not have that
many groves but just a few scattered around, you could have an orange trees in
your back yard and never have to spray it or anything. When you put a bunch of
them together, once one tree gets it, pretty soon you have it in the whole row.
So, if you have an isolated tree, you may never have a problem like scale, mites,
and stuff like that. I think whenever they start producing large quantities of citrus,
they are going to have a problem.
E: What about fire ants?
H: That is a tremendous problem. I have a lot of them in my grove. I have used
ambro which is a bait, but if you have very many acres of it, it is just too
expensive to try to control it. If you do not control either one of them, it will
spread back. I have treated several times on some of my pastures with it, and I
have not done a good enough job I guess. I have used dursban to spray on the
hills, and it kill the hills. I have done that in my own yard; I did it last year on
every hill in the yard, and now this year I have a bunch coming. Agriculture
Research Service on the University of Florida campus is working for a solution
against insects that effect man; the fire ant is one of the studies that they have
going. There is some promise with parasites that they brought in from Brazil to
counteract it, but so far I do not think they have found anything effective. It is a
E: How do the fire ants effect the tree, do they?
H: I have not had a real problem with fire ants any worse than the other common
ants. If they build a mound near a young tree, they will climb the trunk and
scratch the bark a little bit. I have never had any real damage to the trees, it is
just aggravation to the people working in the groves. The fire ant is more active
than the other ants; you can not disturb the hill or they will come out immediately
and start stinging you. I have had ailed of fire ant stings. They sting a lot worse
than the others.
E: So, that is not as dangerous to the tree as it is to people.
H: That is right. I have not had any damage done. The chemical people told me
that the foot rock, the __ is in the soil and the ants will carry it up the trees. I
have had some trees with lesions just below the limbs that looks like foot rock.
The common ants will do that too, so I do not know if fire ants are any more of a
hazard than the other ants.
E: The other pests are mites?
H: In the spring, we have spider mites. They scratch they leaves and do damage to
the leaves and to the young fruit. We have had all kinds of scales; purple scale,
red scale, and chaff scales. A scale does not look like an insect, it is just a little
spot on the leaf of the fruit.
E: Is it really an insect?
H: It is an insect. In the fall, I have a lot of problems with rust mites. A mite is not
an insect; it is an eight-legged animal, but most people think of it as an insect. It
is in the same category as a tick or a flea with eight legs. Spiders, scorpions,
mites, and ticks have eight legs. The rust mite effects the fruit mostly; it gives it a
brown rusty appearance. It effects the quality of the fruit in that it scratches the
surface of the fruit and the moisture evaporates out of the fruit. It actually makes
the fruit a little sweeter, but the fruit will dry up and not keep for long. We have
grasshoppers in the late summer that eat a lot of the leaves on the fruit. If you
want to control them, you have to spray for them. In my little grove, I mostly
have spider mites in the spring, scale in the summer, and rust mite in the fall.
E: Do they damage the foliage more than the fruit?
H: Yes. Of course, when you damage the foliage severely enough you are effecting
the fruit itself. When the scales get on the fruit it looks terrible, but it really does
not effect the taste of the fruit.
E: If they are going to make concentrate out of it, I suppose it does not matter.
H: When you are selling fresh fruit, there is a lot more of attention given to
controlling all these infections and diseases than it is if it is concentrate.
E: You were saying you sell it in the farmers market. Did you ever try selling it to
Ward's grocery store? I think they advertise sometimes that they have local fruit.
H: I have gotten real bold with my chinese honey otherwise, but if I get to the point
where I __ fruit, I have thought about doing that. In fact, I have sold kumquats
to the Publix Stores and to Kash-n-Karry. Both of these chain stores order all
their fruit through their warehouse, but once they saw my kumquats, which were
a nicer size than the ones they had been getting through the warehouse, they
purchased a lot from me. I thought about Ward's but I have not contacted them.
Until I get more than I can sell to individuals, I will not try to do that. That will be
in the future. Much of the time these stores can get fruit in bulk bins cheaper
then I can afford to sell it to them. This last year grapefruit was pretty plentiful.
A friend of mine contacted a fruit stand over at East Palatka that sells a lot of
fresh fruit. They were getting Indian River grapefruit for sixty dollars per bulk bin;
that is twenty bushels for sixty dollars which equals three dollars per bushel. I
could not afford to even haul it over there for that price. The advantage for the
small grower is when he can have a specialty fruit like the chinese honey. Not
very many people have that fruit, so you can sell all those that you can grow just
about. If you get into the common type citrus, you have ailed of competition.
E: Robin told me that he advertises his fruit as organically grown and that he got a
good price for it and it was gone just like that. People were so interested in the
organic that he could charge much more for it.
H: I do not understand why. I am on the advisors council for Research and
Extension of Natural Resources. We had a meeting concerning the University
doing research with organic by growing with mulch and different types of
mulches. As far as fertilizing goes, the nutrients have got to be converted to an
inorganic form, so I do not see the advantage of putting organic matter on it. I do
not understand what the advantage of organic over inorganic if it is going to get
transformed anyway. When I was a child, all we used was cow pen fertilizer
which we got from the cow stalls and put in our garden. That is okay but it is a
lot easier to use commercial fertilizer. There is quite a market for organic.
E: Is there a problem with fungus on the citrus or on the trees if they have too much
H: Rainy weather encourages that. There is something called scab that does not
effect sweet orange, but it will effect sour orange, temporal oranges, and
tangelos. The leaves will have a scabby looking growth and depressions. There
will be rough looking bumps on the fruit. You can control the fungus scab with
copper, but it does not hurt the fruit. I have got some tangelos with big bumps
on them, and you also see it on temporal oranges.
E: You control it with copper?
H: Yes, it is a chemical in dust form which is used as a spray to conquer fungicide.
The other fungus is foot rot or phytophthora; it is foot rot or root rot. It destroys
the root system, to me it is the most serious.
E: What do you think of the government's role in the citrus industry? Do you think
there too much regulation, aside from when they have a cancer scare or
something? Normally, do you feel that they interfere too much with regulations?
H: I should not answer because I am not up on that really. Being such a small
grower, I do not really have that much contact with others. I do not really know
that it is a problem or not. They do regulate weight limits for trucks because they
do damage to highways if they are overloaded. I did not realize that they are
lenient on agricultural haulers. They have to have some regulations because
people hauling will load as much as they can to make a little more money. It is
kind of a hazard with all these big trucks on highways, but of course they have to
get all this stuff to market. The federal highway system has to have some kind of
restrictions. I really do not know if the USDA restrictions have hampered the
industry; it probably works to the industries benefit, for instance, some might put
out a bad product if they did not come out and do some inspections.
E: Do they come out and see what you are doing here?
H: The nursery inspector for the state comes by every three months and check on
us. Now that the cancer situation is under control, they still come by as a regular
inspection. If I have some unusual insect or problem, they will look it over for my
own benefit and tell me about it. Usually I know about it, but they verify that I
check on it which is a benefit for me.
E: I have spoken to other citrus growers, and one in particular further south was
adamant that there is absolutely too much regulation.
H: I guess I am not affected like the larger growers. The only contact I have with
the government would be the state inspection of my nursery. As far as my grove
goes, they may not know that I have it. I am really not affected by it. I am sure
the big commercial growers would have allowed more government regulation to
contend with than I do.
E: I assume that you feel they should pass protective tariffs, especially with NAFTA.
H: I see two sides to that question. As long as we have so many restrictions about
labor rates and other things, we can not compare to other countries. I heard
Doyle Conner say that when the United States becomes a second rate
agricultural nation, we will be a second rate nation. I feel like we have got to
protect our culture because I hate to think of us depending on other countries for
all of our food and supplies.
E: After a freeze and extensive damage, people are in a financial situation such that
they need loans to redo their groves. Can they get special loan rates?
H: Yes, in fact I applied through the Agricultural Stabilization Service. If you are
damaged over a certain percentage, I believe over 40 or 50 percent, you can get
cost sharing. They helped me out on getting my new trees started which I was
appreciative of. I am in Putnam county, so I dealt with people over in Palatka.
One older gentleman had his grove frozen out, and he was checking to see how
much assistance he could get through ASCS. They asked him when he was
going to replant, and he replied that he was not planning on replanting. He just
wanted to get paid for the damage that was done. Of course, you have to verify
that you keep up with all your expenses in replanting. I did receive some cost
share on that. It was a big help. I probably would have struggled along and got
it on my own, I could not have afforded to buy that many trees at that time.
E: What about grove insurance?
H: I do not have any insurance on mine. I have not looked into that. It would
probably be pretty expensive this far north. I can see how it would help. If a
tornado came through, you could lose a considerable amount of fruit. I can see
the benefit of having some kind of insurance, whether it be hail, tornado, or even
cold insurance. I do not know for sure if you can get cold insurance. I just try not
to plant more trees than I can afford to lose.
E: Since you are on the north end of the north central Florida group, I wonder how
long there will be an industry in this area.
H: At one time, Lake county was right near the top in citrus acreage in the state. I
believe there will be some citrus from now on, but it will never be like it was
before. If they come up with some real cold resistant varieties it might, but by
that time the land will already be used for something else like houses or some
other agricultural crop.
E: This is a big problem in Orange county, I think. Wherever the trees were
destroyed, in comes the builder.
H: That is right. I just believe there will always be some groves around in this part
of the state, but it will never be like it was at one time.
E: Tell me about Mr. Barrington.
H: The location of my grove is on the piece of property that we bought from Mr.
Burlese Barrington. My father bought Mr. Barrington's home place. Mr.
Barrington would probably be approaching 100 years old if he were still living
today. He was well known over in the Melrose area. I suppose back in the
1930s he was in the citrus business. He did all of custom work. He would spray
trees for people with small groves; he had his own little groves between
Hawthorne and Melrose. In the 1950s, he built a packing house south of
Melrose west of Highway 21. He had a real good business going. He had ten
acres of groves where my little grove is now located, and he had probably ten or
fifteen more acres at his later home near the packing house. When people were
down in Florida visiting, they knew he had fruit which was in the northern end of
the citrus area, so they would stop by his packing house and pick three or four
bushels of whatever they wanted. They would run them through the washer and
waxer; people were fascinated with his packing plant because they had never
seen that before. He sold ailed of fruit that way. He also sold fruit to people who
delivered fruit house to house. When I was a child, a man used to come by our
house with fruit and vegetables; some of this fruit he got from Mr. Barrington.
Mr. Barrington's grandfather, John Barrington, was written up in literature as
having introduced chinese honey into the United States. He got two chinese
honey fruit from a chinese missionary and planted the seeds. The chinese
honey is a mandarin type fruit which has lose skin similar to that of a tangerine; it
is a mild, good eating fruit. He planted the seed back in the middle 1800s, I
guess. He grew the trees and a botanist identified the trees as being the true
chinese honey. It is also known as the ponkaan. Mr. Barrington's daughter told
me that her father always said that ponkaan and chinese honey were different,
but he finally admitted that it was the same fruit. His grandfather is written up in
the literature as having introduced it into the United States. That same fruit has
been grown over in the Melrose, Hawthorne, and __ area for years. I have
sold a few trees to people, so I know a few people who have dooryard plantings
of one or two trees. Some of them are still growing them from seeds. Mrs.
Berry, whose husband used to work with Mr. Barrington in his grove, has some
seedling chinese honey that are producing now. There are not very many left,
except dooryard plantings. I suppose there are some in the south, but they do
not ship real well. They grow upright and the branches are limber, so they have
to propped when you get a good crop of fruit or they will split the branches.
There is a little more maintenance in keeping the trees in good condition. The
fruit is so desirable that you can sell all that type fruit that you can grow because
it is real popular.
E: When you talk about the fruit, you talk about oranges or hybrid mandarin with
slipper skin where the skin comes off easily. Was that an original division in the
fruit or did that come through hybrids?
H: I think that it is an original division because I am not sure that all these are
hybrids. Many of these fruit are hybrids like the temporal orange. You have a
tree with a limb that has fruit that looks different; we call it a mutation or a spore.
I understand that when they grow fruit from seed, you can get some variations
because any seed you produce could from the adult tree resulting from cross
pollination. I really do not know if chinese honey is considered a mutation. I
assumed it was an individual fruit. All of the hybrids are natural mutations I think.
E: Easily identifiable are the naval oranges; are they a natural mutation?
H: I think so. Mr. Barrington told me that in his area near Melrose there were some
Washington naval. It was called Washington naval because the USDA brought it
in to the United States.
E: Where did they bring it from?
H: I assume it is from the Mediterranean area. Much of the fruit came from the
Mediterranean area. With something like satsuma, you can tell by the name that
it is oriental. There are three kinds of kumquats. I have two of them; the meiwi
which a round sweet one, and the nagami which is a long tart kumquat. There is
another small sweet one called a narubi. All of these are of oriental origin.
E: I think the citrus fruit originated in China.
H: I think so.
E: It is a popular thing to go cut your own Christmas tree or pick your own fruit. Do
they do that in the citrus industry, or do they prefer not to have anyone in their
H: I do not see that very much. Down at Citra at the orange shop, they have a
grove around the shop and invite their customers to go out and pick an orange.
Years ago, that was pretty much discouraged on the commercial groves. Some
of the main highways going through the groves suffered from people stopping
and picking their own fruit illegally. There was a grove at one time called
Governor's Grove on US 27 Highway. I believe they would allow people to pick a
small amount of fruit. I do not know of anybody that does like the blueberry
growers that allow you to pick your own. I am not sure that I would want to do
E: I think because it is a long term thing, if you have people coming in and you do
not know where they have been before, they may bring something. Whereas
with blueberries, if you bring in diseases, those plants are gone anyway.
H: That is right. With blueberries and strawberries, the fruit is short-lived so you
have to get them picked. With my own citrus, I can pick it today or wait till next
week or two weeks. It is not urgent that I can get it off the tree.
E: If the tree grows too large, you can not reach it.
H: That is right. With human nature being like it is, you would be surprised how the
public will do. Once when I let a few people come in who wanted to buy fruit that
I did not have already picked, I let them start picking it. I had a certain measured
box and they felt like to get their full measure, they would have to pile it up
another half-bucket full on top.
E: Human nature has a larcenous streak in it, something for nothing. I think we
have covered everything that we can think of. I thank you very much on behalf
of the Oral History Department.
H: I was very glad to participate.
[End side A2]
A: The trend in Florida is to restore and protect natural systems, natural flows,
natural ecosystems, keep them intact, stay away from manmade structures, stay
away from dams and diversions and canals and pumping stations. That is part
of the Florida of the pre-1990s, pre-environmental decade, so to speak, and the
people around Orange Lake represent that time period. They came to Florida at
a time when everything was done for growth and development, and it is not done
that way anymore. So these issues are very contentious, and the people around
Orange Lake would like to see the sinkhole plugged, they would like to see the
water stopped from flowing on Paynes Prairie and be redirected down to them,
and that is what our advisory council is looking at. And, of course, you can
imagine it is very contentious because the advisory council has one, two, three,
four people on it that are definitely effected by what we do because they live
around Orange Lake and own fish camps around Orange Lake.
E: How many people are on the council?
A: I think it there is twelve or fourteen, I cannot remember. There are two on the
council that are fish camp owners around Orange Lake, and there is one on the
council that is property owner around Orange Lake and is not a fish camp owner.
So I guess there are three people that make their livelihood based on the water
levels in Orange Lake. What else would you like to know?
E: Tell me about Marjorie Carr's organization.
A: Florida Defender's of the Environment. I am a newcomer to Florida Defender's
of the Environment. I am active with them because I represent them on the
Orange Creek Basin Advisory Council, but I also went to them several months
ago and asked them to start getting more involved in issues to protect Payne's
Prairie. I went before their executive board and let them know my concerns, and
they decided to put Payne's Prairie on their agenda as another thing for them to
watch over. And I represent them on Payne's Prairie issues. Florida Defender's
of the Environment, I do not know that I am a person to talk about them,
although I know a lot about them, that is Marjorie Carr's organization that was
set up to stop the Cross Florida Barge Canal, which is another sort of remnant of
the 1950s and 1960s in Florida when powers that be were trying to do whatever
was necessary to promote growth and development in Florida and environment
be damned. Today, doing something like the Cross-Florida Barge Canal would
be laughed out of the drawing room, but back then it was promoted and pushed
by a lot of high government officials, and it was an attempt to, essentially, cut a
ditch across the state of Florida through some of the most spectacular terrain in
the state. Nobody seemed to care very much about what was going on, at least
not on an organizational level, except people like Marjorie Carr and she formed
Florida Defender's of the Environment to stop that project, and they were very
successful. The project was stopped. Although while a lot of people may credit
it to Florida Defender's of the Environment, my guess is even if FDE was not
around, it would have been stopped because it was such a ridiculous project.
How it ever got going is just amazing.
E: Florida has some interesting things in its history.
A: Sure, the destruction of the Everglades. People have been fighting the
destruction of the Everglades for thirty years, and it is just now becoming a big
issue and now it is going to be corrected. But, all over Florida there are
restoration projects going on, trying to reverse the travesties that were done to
the environment for the last fifty years and the Cross Florida Barge Canal via the
Florida Defender's of the Environment's efforts is one of those examples. In fact,
the Orange Creek Basin Advisory Council is dealing with another big issue, the
reason any water from Newnans Lake flows down to Orange Lake is because an
artificial canal was built in the 1920s.
E: That is Camps.
A: That is Camps Canal, yes. That is part of the whole problem now. In fact,
Payne's Prairie suffers as a consequence of that because that water used to flow
onto Payne's Prairie and now most of it does not.
E: So if they wanted to go back, as it said in the newspaper, to the time when
Bartram came ...
A: They would close off Camps Canal, take all of the water, [and] send it back on to
the prairie. That is how it was when Bartram came through. But in the 1920s,
there was an effort to drain Payne's Prairie and use it for use cattle raising, so
the Camps Canal was dug. If you canoe Prairie Creek, it is pretty amazing. You
go down Prairie Creek for a mile and a half and it is just a gorgeous, pristine,
hardwood swamp, and then all of a sudden, you hit Camps Canal and it is just a
straight line down to Orange Lake. It is pretty amazing. But that is what the
Cross Florida Barge Canal is too. You enter the Cross Florida Barge Canal at
the Gulf of Mexico, and you go halfway to the center of the state down this
channelized, straight as an arrow canal, and then, all of a sudden, you hit the
Oklawaha River and it is an absolutely spectacular canoe trip for the next six or
seven or eight miles down the gorgeous Oklawaha River, and that would have
been straightened as well if people did not get involved. And I am a canoeist, so
I see these stark things. For the general population it does not mean much to
say, "Well, here is Camps Canal and here is Prairie Creek, and one starts and
turns into the other." But if you are a canoeist and you see the difference, and
you see the difference in wildlife and habitat and water quality, you are very
much aware of how much destruction these manmade projects do.
E: They did that to the Kissimmee River, too, did they not?
A: Oh, yes. Now there is a multi-multi-million dollar ...
E: They are talking about making it curvy again.
A: ... [project] putting the curves back into the Kissimmee River. Actually, it is
presented as putting the curves back into the Kissimmee River, but what they
are really going to do is tear up the ditch and restore the natural flow. You do not
just take the ditch and put some curves in it, you totally remove the ditch.
Believe it or not, the channels are still there, so it is not like you have to come
and dig the ditches back in to make the curves, you just get rid of the canal and
let the water do what it used to do.
A: Yes. It finds the channel again. The channels are still there. It is the same thing
with Camps Canal. If you take Camps Canal away and the water flows back
onto Payne's Prairie, it will go back into the original channels. And if you fly over
Payne's Prairie in an airplane, you can see the original channels, just like if you
fly over the Rodman Reservoir, you can see the original channels of the
Oklawaha River through the reservoir that is being dammed up and formed
Rodman Lake, although a lot of people prefer to call it Rodman pool, because
from an environmental standpoint it is not a lake at all, it is just a pool behind a
E: According to environmentalists, what makes a lake. What is the difference
between that and a pool?
A: Well, I do not know. It is hard to say.
E: It is artificially ..
A: Yes. Rodman Lake is artificial. It is not really a lake; it is a big pool behind a
dam. In Florida, Florida has so many natural lakes that people would like to
keep the distinction between what is behind a dam and what is natural. But in
many parts of the country, it does not matter. Most places in the country do not
have natural lakes. Most lakes are manmade in the nation. Only in Florida do
we have such a wealth of natural lakes.
E: My friends that live out in Melrose bought a lovely house on a lake, and the water
A: Which lake?
E: I am not sure, in Melrose.
A: Keystone Heights?
E: All I know is that they live in Melrose. Now, is that just because of the dry
environment, or because man has been tinkering with it.
A: It could be both. It could be just drought. It is hard to say. It depends on what is
going on in that area. Those are the issues that the St. Johns River Water
Management District deals with. A lot of lakes in Florida are rain fed, a lot of
lakes in Florida are fed by the aquifer. If the lake is fed by the rain water and
there is no rain, then there is obviously no water in the lake. If the lake is fed by
the aquifer, and there is no rain which lowers the water table, and people are
taking water out of the aquifer at tremendous amounts, then there is no water
from the aquifer to replenish the lake. It is very complicated. For example,
Orange Lake, if the aquifer drops, the sink hole gets more active and the sink
hole drains the lake quicker. It is a natural system. We had one presentation
from the water management district that laster for several hours and it was their
ecologist and biologist telling us in no uncertain terms that all manipulations in
Florida to lakes that are manmade are bad. None of them have ever been
successful and they only result in more problems. These are the scientists
telling us this, but, of course, the Orange Lake people do not want to hear that.
They want more dams and more culverts a more pumps, and now this new
scheme which is to plug up the sink hole. That is yet to be seen, but, in fact, on
the twenty-fifth of next month we will be having a presentation from the
engineers that have been hired to decide if it technologically feasible to plug the
sink hole. My guess is that they will say that yes, it is technologically feasible,
but extremely expensive.
E: Well, after you put enough money into almost anything, it can be done. But
whether it is really a viable option is another matter.
A: Well, the Orange Lake people would just as soon fill up a bunch of buses with
sand and drive them off the cliff into the sea, although I do not think anybody is
going to let them do that.
E: The other thing that you read in the papers a lot, which is also an environmental
problem, I guess, but it cannot be solved, is what to do with the garbage.
A: Oh, you mean the land fill.
E: The land fill.
A: Well, it will be solved. You have to do something.
E: I mean, it will go somewhere.
A: Oh, there is no question. There are communities all over the country that have
much less landfill space than we do and have much less land to put new landfills
than we do, and they do it. They site them. It will get sited here, just some
people will be upset. There is just no way around it. That is why recycling is so
big here. It is another option.
E: Among the politicians, the commissioners and so on, the fellow that just won the
A: Bruce Delaney?
E: Bruce Delaney, did he not advertise himself as being an environmentalist?
A: Yes. I believe that Bruce Delaney probably is an "environmentalist," but being
an environmentalist is kind of an interesting thing. Calling yourself an
environmentalist is an interesting thing. Very few people would say that they are
racist, but they do a lot of things that a lot of people would consider racist. The
same kind of criteria can apply to an environmentalist. There are many people
that consider themselves environmentalist, but they do many things in their day
to day activities and their lifestyle that do not fit with my idea of being an
environmentalist. I do not want to be too judgmental, but I have a hard time with
people that claim that they are environmentalist, and do all these things to
protect the environment, and then live in a house that has 5,000 square feet of
space and have five kids. Again, you cannot be too judgmental in our culture.
Those same people that live in that 5,000 square foot house and have five kids,
or four kids, would say they are an environmentalist and belong to the Sierra
Club, and belong to the Audubon Society, etc. So it is hard to say who is an
E: It is really an expression without boundaries.
A: Yes. It is very hard to say who is an environmentalist. Bruce Delaney seems to
care very much about the planet and seems to care very much about animals
and habitat, and in my opinion, if you have all those cares and concerns, and
your lifestyle reflects those concerns, then I would consider you, yes, quite
logically, an environmentalist. But there are a lot of people who consider
themselves environmentalists that I object to as categorizing themselves as
such. I will not say that, because you do not want to be judgmental and you do
not want to criticize people too harshly. Let us face it, the United States is full of
environmentalist, and the country's environment is being destroyed.
E: What about this railroad that GRU is talking about?
A: Again, it is a complicated issue. I do not know. Most environmental
organizations are staying out of that issue. GRU wants to build this railway for
the public, and they say that there is not going to have much environmental
impact. Well, what is environmental impact? GRU says it is not going to have
much environmental impact because it is not going to go over any wetlands, it is
not going to destroy much valuable habitat, it is going to go over mostly
abandoned rail lines, well, that is true. But they are still going to lay several
hundred thousand feet of steel. Steel has to be built, has to be manufactured.
There are smokestack emissions in the construction of steel. There is going to
be millions and millions of board feet of railroad ties that are made out of treated
lumber. Treated lumber is made out of toxic materials. Trees are cut down to
make the railroad ties. There is going to be incredible amounts of gasoline used
to haul all this stuff to the site, to run the bulldozers, to run the trucks, [and] all
those have environmental impacts. But, again, in our culture we can say there is
not much environmental impact because they are not going to destroy any
wildlife habitat, they are not going to cross any wetlands, well, that is a bunch of
hogwash. Any time you build something or do anything that uses raw materials
that does not need to be done, you are having an adverse environmental impact
that should be avoided. GRU does not talk about that and the community does
not talk about that. So in my eyes, if the facility, the rail line, does not need to be
built and can be avoided, it should be, from an environmental standpoint.
Because just the use of all the raw materials to duplicate another rail line is, in
my eyes, an environmental travesty. If we were really paying the price for all the
products and all the services, then the price of that rail line would be so high that
it could not be built. But we do not. We do not pay the full cost of cutting down
all the trees, we do not pay the full cost of using all the chemicals in the treated
lumber, we do not pay the full cost of all the emissions from the smoke stacks to
produce the steel. That is my tirade on that. I guess I will just let it go and say,
"Yes, there is not too much environmental impact."
E: In the newspaper article about the Paynes Prairie thing, you were also saying
there is run-off from GRU, their Sweetwater branch.
A: Now, that is a very good issue, and we are working on that very hard.
Sweetwater branch, which is actually the creek that drains our neighborhood,
goes onto Payne's Prairie. So if you empty a can of gasoline in your driveway
and it rains, that gasoline goes into the street, goes into the sewer system, and
goes straight onto Payne's Prairie and then goes straight into Alachua sink, and
goes right into the Florida aquifer. [It has] no treatment whatsoever. During the
rainy periods, those are tremendous amounts of water. The agency responsible
for regulating that is the Department of Environmental Protection, and the
company that is mandated to control that is the city. I should say the city is the
one that is in charge of storm water run-off, and all of these entities do not deal
with that. They ignore it. GRU comes into play because GRU dumps its waste
water at their main street water plant into Sweetwater branch, and then all of it
goes onto Payne's Prairie and into Alachua sink. Now, GRU treats its water
quite adequately for lots of purposes, but they do not treat it enough to keep their
waste water from harmfully impacting the Prairie. So we would like to see two
things, we meaning the people that are trying to protect Payne's Prairie. We
would like to see GRU either clean up its water to the degree that it has no
impact on Payne's Prairie, or stop dumping it into Sweetwater branch and
allowing it to go onto the Prairie.
E: Can it be cleaned up?
A: Yes. But that is an expensive option. The other option is do what they do with
the rest of their water, inject it into a deep water well injection into the lower
Florida aquifer. That is what happens to all the other waste water. It just gets
put into a big hole in the ground and goes into the aquifer and we let the aquifer
clean it up. That does not happen now. What happens is it goes into
Sweetwater branch which is a surface stream and it goes onto Payne's Prairie.
The first thing would be for GRU to either clean up the water so that it no longer
harms the Prairie, or dump it somewhere else, and the second thing would be for
the city to do something to clean up the street storm water run-off before it goes
onto the Prairie. We are trying to get both of those things addressed, and it is
very difficult. [There is] a lot of finger pointing. I guess the other side of this coin
is that in dealing with it, all of these people want to get involved with
management of the Prairie, which is another issue. Nobody should manage the
Prairie except the Department of Environmental Protection. So, if GRU dumps
its water onto the Prairie, that means they think they should have a say in how
Payne's Prairie is managed. And they should not, but they claim they should.
So they are saying now that Payne's Prairie should manage water levels on the
Prairie differently to lessen the impact of their waste water on the Prairie. In
other words, since we are allowed to put our water on the Prairie, then you
should do what you need to do in your management of Payne's Prairie so that
our waste water has less of an impact.
E: So they would be for having more water come to the Prairie and not to go to
A: Well, those are two separate issues. There are a lot of people that confuse that.
What GRU does with Payne's Prairie has nothing to do with what happens to
Orange Lake. Orange Lake people claim, again they are ignoring science ..
Prairie Creek comes in on one side of the Prairie, GRU's waste water comes in
on another side of the Prairie, and the two do not mix. Now, they mix eventually
in the Florida aquifer.
E: If you, say, cut off all the water to Orange Lake and gave it all to Payne's Prairie
making it more water there, then the impact from GRU would be less on the
A: No. The two are totally unrelated. GRU's water goes into Sweetwater branch,
which goes into a canal, which goes straight into the Florida Aquifer, the Alachua
sink. That happens to be on the Prairie, but that is totally disconnected from the
water that comes from Prairie Creek and is used as sheet flow to nourish a large
wetland. Sweetwater branch has nothing to do with nourishment of wetlands on
Paynes Prairie; it flows down a ditch and goes into Alachua sink. Prairie Creek is
diverted to Orange Lake and some of it is allowed to naturally flow onto Paynes
Prairie as it always has, but it flows onto Paynes Prairie just like water flows
through the Everglades, in a large, several thousand acres of wetland-prairie
marsh system and it nourishes that very large area. That is entirely different
than what happens with Sweetwater branch.
E: So GRU should have no say in what is going on on the Prairie.
A: Absolutely not, and that is why their waste water should not be allowed to be
dumped onto Payne's Prairie. That is exactly why. As long as their waste water
is allowed to be dumped onto Payne's Prairie, they think it means they should
have a say in how Payne's Prairie is managed. Payne's Prairie says, "Your
waste water is harming Payne's Prairie." So GRU says, "Well, let us manage
Payne's Prairie in a different way so our water does not harm Payne's Prairie."
That is apples and oranges. Payne's Prairie should be managed for wildlife and
habitat and ecosystems. It should not be managed as a catch basin for
treatment of waste water, and that is how GRU would like to see it managed.
The two should be separated. We would like to see GRU dig another well and
inject all the waste water into the aquifer, which is not a good option, but it is
better than having it flow across Payne's Prairie and then go down the aquifer. If
you are going to destroy the aquifer, do it legitimately. Say, "Okay, we are
pumping it straight into the aquifer." See, now, GRU says, "We do not pump it
into the aquifer, we send it onto Payne's Prairie," so they can avoid the trap of
saying we dump it into the aquifer, even though, when they dump it onto Payne's
Prairie, it still goes down into the aquifer, but they are not responsible for it then.
E: What about the smoke emissions, and so on, from GRU?
A: I do not know anything about that. My guess is that their smokestack emissions
are highly regulated, and is state of the art. That is my guess. Environmentalists
have fought for fifty years to control smokestack emissions.
It is important to keep in mind that the Orange Lake people claim that GRU and
the water from Sweetwater branch can be used on Payne's Prairie and therefore,
they should be able to get all the water from Prairie Creek. Again, their school of
thought is antiquated. That school of thought is one of manipulation. The whole
idea behind Payne's Prairie is restoration of natural systems, not manipulation of
natural systems to satisfy human needs. By supplementing Prairie Creek's water
with GRU and then cutting off the flow of Prairie Creek so that it all can be going
down to Orange Lake, is again going against the tide of present, modern,
scientific evidence. That is manipulation of the system. You are just convoluting
the whole system to satisfy different factions, different private interests, and that
is not what we want to see happen. GRU should get its water off of Payne's
Prairie and Orange Lake people should stop demanding that Payne's Prairie's
water be diverted to them. It is as simple as that.
GRU's dumping of its waste water from the main street treatment facility into
Sweetwater branch allows them to take advantage of a really large loophole in
Florida's water law. It is illegal to dump water into the aquifer without all kinds of
permitting and treatment. But, by dumping into Sweetwater branch which flows
into the aquifer, they avoid the regulations that control discharge straight into the
aquifer because they say they do not dump it into the aquifer, they dump it into a
surface stream. It just so happens that surface stream goes right into the
aquifer, but that is a loophole in the law. The law does not deal with that. If you
took away Sweetwater branch, if Sweetwater branch was not there and it was a
totally artificial canal instead, GRU would not be able to dump water into it. They
are only allowed to dump water into it because it is a naturally flowing surface
stream. That is just a big loophole in the law, and there is a lot of pressure to
stop dumping directly into the aquifer, but that pressure allows for this loophole.
In other words, it has not caught up with this loophole yet. If GRU tried to dump
their water straight into the aquifer, they could not do it, but they can it to the
Sweetwater branch, which is unfortunate.
E: Does GRU have an environmental department person?
A: Oh, yes. Very much so.
E: Do you know who that is?
A: Very much so, yes. David Richardson is the person in charge of this aspect of it.
E: Is he really an environmentalist?
A: Again, that is a very difficult question to answer. He is very, very knowledgeable,
and a very nice individual, personally. When I asked him, "Would you like to
stop dumping your water into Payne's Prairie?" He said, "Yes," he would. And I
said, "Well, why do you not just dig a new hole and send it into the aquifer at
your waste water treatment plant?" And he said, "Well, that is a good idea if we
could get the Department of Environmental Protection to permit us to do it." And
I said, "Well, you are doing it now anyway, via Sweetwater branch." And he said,
"Well, yes, we are allowed to do that because Sweetwater branch is a loophole
in the law." So that is why it is going down Sweetwater branch as opposed to
going straight into a deep well injection facility.
E: Other plants like that in other counties, they go directly in?
A: All over the state, deep water injection is used. The difference, from what I
understand and I could be wrong, is that most of these places that use deep
water injection use very deep, deep water injection, so the aquifer has thousands
of years to clean up the water before it reaches the drinking water aquifer,
whereas, GRU is one of the few exceptions where their deep water well injection
goes to the aquifer that is used for drinking water. It actually does not go very
deep. That is my understanding, and I do not know the where and whyfors of
that, and I am trying to find out. There are a lot of politics involved in all this, a
very lot of politics.
E: How about the attitude in Tallahassee? Do they not do anything until they are
really faced with a civil war on their hands?
A: I do not know. Again, there is a lot of politics involved. The Department of
Environmental Protection in Tallahassee would like to see GRU upgrade all
these facilities, but they just granted the new permit for their deep water well
injection. No, I think the new permit is coming up this month. I do not know.
Those are all difficult questions. I need to be paid full time to answer these
[End side B1]
A: There is a bottom line to all these issues, at least in my mind. There are other
people that would disagree, I am sure. But for me, the bottom line would be
sustainability, the issue of sustainability. How many people can live in the state
of Florida before we say enough is enough? All over the world, population is
putting stresses on the natural environment, and in many places we say, like in
Africa or in Central America where they are cutting the rainforests or killing all the
wildlife, we say, "You have got too many people. You are reproducing too
much." Well, in a sense, that is what we are doing in Florida. The growth rate in
Florida far exceeds the growth rates in most of these developing countries. It is
not as a result of population, it is not a result of high birth rates, it is a result of
migration to the state of Florida. So the cause is different, but the consequences
are the same, although in Florida, we rely on technology to solve the problems.
That technology results in things like the Cross Florida Barge Canal, deep well
injection, the destruction of Payne's Prairie, etc. At some point, the people of the
state of Florida are going to have to say, "We have either got to stop allowing
tourism and growth and development to dictate where the state is going, or we
have to admit to the fact that we are just going to trash the entire environment,"
which is pretty much what has already occurred. What is being saved is just a
small remnant. But at some point, the state is going to have to admit to that, that
there is just not going to be any room for any wildlife and any greenspace except
in these few isolated areas, or we are just going to say, "No more growth and
development." The growth rate in Alachua county is so high right now that I
believe the doubling time for the population of Alachua county is seventeen
years. That means that every seventeen years at the present rate of
development the population of Alachua county is going to double. That is higher
than Somalia, yet we accept it here because we accept technology as the
E: You should see what happened down in Broward county.
A: Same thing.
E: They have moved so far west that it revolting to see.
A: That is the same thing. At some point, we are going to have to sustainability
says we can keep growing at this rate, but developmental interests and
everybody that wants a higher standard of living still pushes for more growth and
more development. Until we can put a cap on it, all these pressures are going to
still be here.
E: I think it is greed, too.
A: Sure, it is greed.
E: Because the money for new development comes back in taxes and so on, and
they have a bigger budget to play with.
A: Sure. So I just want to say, in my mind, there are no evil people in all this, there
are those interests that do not take the natural environment to heart and believe
that the issue of sustainability is an issue that is not valid, that the state of Florida
can handle 60,000,000 people. And, indeed, it probably can, but I do not want to
be here when it does and there are a lot of other people that do not want to be
here when it does, so we will keep fighting to protect whatever little bit we can
fight to protect until that point is reached where we cannot stand to be here
anymore. The issue of sustainability is real clear in the panther recovery
program in Florida. The state of Florida is spending a fortune to reintroduce the
Florida panther to the state of Florida, and they refuse to look at the issues of,
even if you can save the Florida panther, where are they going to live. There is
no land in Florida for them to survive and live in. I do not know. To me, it is very
difficult question, a very difficult problem to solve. At some point, this state is
going to be uninhabitable for people like myself, and, indeed, most of the state
already is. Hopefully, this part of the state can stay the way it is, but I doubt it. I
E: Well, Gary, I want to thank you so very much for being so gracious with your time
to come and talk to me for this interview for a class project. Thank you very