ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: James Richard (Rip) Graves
INTERVIEWER: Paul Weaver
DATE: June 10, 1977
W: This is Paul Weaver. I'm talking with Mr. James Richard
(Rip) Graves. Mr. Graves is president and chairman of the
board of Graves Brothers Company; he is president and
chairman of the board of Plymouth Citrus Products Cooperative;
he is president and chairman of the board of Citrus Central
Incorporated; he is the former president of the Florida Citrus
Mutual and is a former chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission
and served six terms. I'm talking with Mr. Graves June 10, 1977
at the Graves Brothers packing house in Wabasso, Florida. The
address is P.O. Box 277, Wabasso, zip code 32970. Mr. Graves,
I'd like to begin by asking you how and when you got involved
in the Florida citrus industry.
G: I first became involved in the citrus industry when I graduated
from college in June 1929. I came down to Wabasso to go to
work for a family corporation known as Graves Brothers Company.
Graves Brothers Company was started by my father and my uncle.
The company was really a sawmill and lumbering company. It was
reorganized in 1915, and it has been in existence as Graves
Brothers Company since.
When I came down I took over the records of the corporation.
We had interests in west Florida and here. We were more in the
citrus business. Four hundred acres of citrus was originally
set on this land. The land that our groves are located on
originally was the Sebastian Land Tract. The company was the
Sebastian Land Company, which our folks bought in 1919 looking
forward to additional timber to manufacture. Later, they con-
ceived the idea of setting up a drainage district to drain part
of this land that consisted of 32,000 acres. The land that was
set up to be in the drainage district was about 10,000 acres.
This land was where we did our farming and set the few groves
that we had.
W: Why exactly did your family choose to enter the citrus business?
G: It just looked like an opportune time to get into citrus. We
were farming from 2,000 to 3,000 acres of truck crops--mainly
potatoes and tomatoes. As this land went out of production for
tomatoes, they started planting citrus. That was in about 1922
or 1923 and amounted to about 100 acres. In 1928, they set 400
acres and that was the beginning of the Graves Brothers Company
in the citrus business.
W: What did the land boom and the collapse of the land boom have
to do with your entry into citrus?
G: Well, it made us own all the property that we set out to
develop. The plans of the company were that we would drain
this land, and then we would sell it to other people. With
the collapse of the boom in 1925, we were just completing
the drainage district so that there was nobody to sell it to.
We ended up owning it all.
W: Wasn't your family really at first involved more heavily in
the timbering business?
G: We were 100 per cent in the timber business when we bought
this land. We eventually built the mill here that started
operating in about 1936 or 1937 and four or five years after
that cut the timber off this land.
W: You mentioned the Graves Brothers Company a moment ago.
Would you be a little bit more specific and name the individuals
who were active in organizing that company?
G: The principals of the company were W. F. Graves, an uncle of
mine, and J. E. Graves, who was my father. They came down
from Virginia in 1895 and started a logging operation near
Geneva, Alabama in Northwest Florida. They moved to DeFuniak
Springs, Florida and set up a sawmill on the Choctawhatchee
Bay. Then they moved to Hosford, Florida, in 1915 and built
a sawmill, which was the largest east of the Mississippi River
when it was constructed. It cut 125,000 board feet of timber
a day. They bought this property in 1919 because sawmills
generally kept moving from one place to another.
W: Would you describe what life was like in the Indian River
area when you first arrived?
G: I lived in the farm quarters out west of Wabasso. Our water
supply came from flowing wells which had a great deal of sul-
fur. I couldn't believe anybody could live here that would
drink that water, but I soon got used to it. People who live
here today can't imagine the number of mosquitoes that we had
in the summer. It was almost impossible to work in the groves
on account of them.
W: So it was pretty much a frontier existence.
G: Oh, yes sir.
W: What were the principal forms of transportation at that time?
G: I imagine you're talking about getting our products to the
market. Of course, rail was about the only way we had. Some-
time during the 1930s there was a boat line that came into Ft.
Pierce that we used for awhile. But it was almost entirely
rail--practically no truck shipments available yet.
W: Was there any transportation along the Indian River?
G: We had the Florida East Coast Railroad by the time I got here.
W: I was referring specifically to water transportation.
G: There was none on the Indian River when I came. If you go
back to the time that Mr. Michael came here--in the Deerfield
Groves--that was the only transportation they had. In fact,
the lumber that built the bridge at Wabasso to get across
to his groves was cut off our place by our big sawmill. We
set up a small sawmill and cut the timber to build a bridge
across the Indian River around 1925-1926.
W: Do you recall from what other people have told you what the
water transportation along the Indian River was like?
G: Oh, I don't recall much of that. Mr. Michael used to tell us
how they had to sail up and down the river. He came down from
either Rockledge or Cocoa where he was raised and settled over
on what is known as Orchid Island.
W: What about on land transportation other than railroads?
G: There was very little. We had automobiles, but there was very
little truck traffic...not as we know truck traffic today.
W: What about animal power transportation? Was there some of that?
G: Only in our groves. We had a mule lot, and we had maybe twenty
or thirty mules that we used in growing crops.
W: Would you describe that form of transportation--the on grove
transportation using mules?
G: Well, we didn't use them to bring the product from the farm to
the packing house. We used what we know as a ton and a half
truck today. Trucks were just used to transport the product
from the farm to the packing house. From the packing house to
the market, they generally went by rail--almost 100 per.cent.
W: How were mules used within the grove?
G: We used them on mowing machines; the original groves were
plowed by mule. About the time that I came, in 1929, a few
iron-wheeled tractors were coming out, such as the old 10-20
tractor made by International. They used big bottom plows
to plow and build the beds. We had drag lines then. They
were just coming out with the tracks that they have on them
W: Was the method of growing citrus significantly different?
G: Not a great deal different. We have learned some things about
spraying and fertilizing. Dr. A. F. Camp at the citrus experi-
ment station learned that we were short in minor elements. In
the early 1930s the minor spray program came in--that's copper,
zinc, and manganese that we were very short in. We're using
a little different combination in our fertilizers, but generally
it's nitrogen, phosphate, and potash. Now, we use more nitro-
gen, less potash, and not too much phosphate. We used to use
more potash in relation to nitrogen; now, we use about fifty-
W: Would you tell me generally when the Indian River area began
to be distinct from other citrus producing regions of Florida?
G: When I arrived here in 1929, it was very distinct. We have
always raised a little higher internal quality fruit, and the
River has always capitalized on that. In 1929 they had their
own sales and promotional programs--that were different from
the rest of the state--to promote Indian River fruit and to
tell the people or customers that it was a better fruit. We've
always worked to maintain that difference; this is true par-
ticularly on grapefruit.
W: What were some of the early cooperative and promotional organi-
zations particular to the Indian River growing area?
G: The Indian River Citrus League came into being. Then we had
the Growers Administrative Committee that was set up to ad-
minister the marketing order under the Agricultural Marketing
Act. At first, under the Growers Administrative Committee,
the marketing order was for the entire state. Now, the
Indian River has a separate order.
W: Is there any reason for that?
G: I think so in that the river is different from the middle
of the state in their marketing problems. What's impor-
tant to us is not so important to them. Both of them are
established to have a more orderly and stable marketing
W: What are some of the different problems that the Indian
River grower-shipper faces that the interior grower-ship-
G: We all have our problems. I am thinking that certain sizes
here would be profitable to ship to market where that size
would not be profitable to ship to the middle of the state.
A central marketing order would eliminate our size and bring
us less money because it's not profitable to ship it in the
middle of the state. As long as we even out this marketing
thing, we'll get some orderly marketing going on. It's
these little things that make the difference.
We have a little different problem here. I can recall
times when certain sizes of fruit that we're shipping has
been profitable to the grower; that same size in the middle
of the state would not be profitable to them, so they elim-
inated them. If we had just one marketing order, ours
would be eliminated too. One has got to go. If you have
separate marketing orders and we still keep an even flow
of fruit going into the market, it'll be profitable.
W: What about some other cooperative organizations in this area?
Of course there was the Seald-Sweet organization.
G: The Seald-Sweet organization is a cooperative selling organ-
ization that has their headquarters at Tampa. It was origin-
ally made up of sub-exchanges over the state. There were
five major sub-exchanges of which the Indian River was one.
The Indian River Exchange has continued to function as an
exchange. They have their own directors, and all the other
exchanges are still functioning, but they don't function
like the River.
W: What's particular about the way the Indian River Sub-Exchange
G: The difference is the Exchange years ago established the
volume of fruit that a packing house had to have to become
a sub-exchange. They lowered that down where individual
houses that are shipping 1,000,000 boxes of fruit could be-
come a sub-exchange instead of being a part of seven or eight
houses in that district. They ended up with seven or eight
sub-exchanges within one district. Even though a lot of them
could be sub-exchanges, most of them stay under the Indian
River Sub-Exchange, elect their own directors, but market
together. The Florida Citrus Exchange is a cooperative
marketing organization. The Indian River now call themselves
the Seald-Sweet Growers, and they call the sub-exchange over
here the Florigold Growers.
W: Who are some of the leaders who helped establish cooperative,
promotional, and trade associations in this area?
G: I'd really rather talk about those in the state. When you
ask this and try to go back fifty years and remember, you're
gonna leave a lot of people out.
W: What about the more significant ones in the area and in the
G: When I came down here, A. B. Michael was one of the leaders
here, and J. J. Parrish,Sr. was certainly one of the leaders.
Roy Brock, who was the secretary of the Indian River Citrus
Sub-Exchange in Cocoa,was one of the leaders here. Ones
over the state that helped all of the organizations--the
Florida Citrus Mutual, Florida Citrus Commission, the old
clearing house that they had--were people like Tom Swan,
John Snively, and members of his family, Vernon Conner,
Babe Prevatt, Bill Mosely in Fort Pierce and many others.
Those are some of the few that I can think of right now that
were leaders in 1929.
W: How receptive were growers to cooperative marketing when you
first entered the business?
G: In the late 1920s and the early 1930s, when they started to
set up more orderly marketing systems, you had to have organ-
izations to handle it; you had to have packing houses. All
of a sudden the small growers knew that to have a packing
house, they had to do it together. They were pioneers in the
deal, and that's the way your big cooperatives got started in
the state. They banded together to do what they could do
legally under the Agricultural Marketing Act. I think they
were very receptive to it then.
W: What were some of the incentives for joining a cooperative
G: Well, there was more money for your fruit. In other words,
I own a forty acre grove out here, I can't afford to build
a packing house. But if twenty of us have forty acre groves,
we could get together, build one central packing house, and
own it together. Then you had to have orderly marketing,
and that's where your Florida Citrus Exchange came into
being. They marketed the fruit for a number of these pack-
ing houses. So, it was really a cooperative movement to
get the citrus industry started--not just a personal deal.
W: What about financing? Was there a loan system set up so
that growers could finance their operations?
G: This is true. Of course, you have more today than you had
then. The Florida Citrus Exchange set up one of their own
called the Growers Loan Guarantee Company to help their
growers. Later, your farm credit administration under the
Farm Credit Act, and the Federal Land Bank came into being
about 1917. About 1932 and 1933 is when the Bank of Co-ops
and the Intermediate Credit Banks came into being.
W: What about the Depression? Was there more incentive for
joining the cooperative movement at that time than perhaps
there is today?
G: I think it was. In fact, what created them was the need
to get more money. And they did. After they got more money,
a lot of them decided that they could do it better alone.
I'm going back to the grass roots--these people were kind of
rugged individualists that came down here and started the
citrus industry. Now, their holdings are owned by grand-
children, and they don't have the same feeling towards the
co-ops that their grandfathers and great grandfathers who
started them--the people that went in and built them out of
W: How has the attitude of growers towards cooperative marketing
changed since then?
G: Well, you have both ways. I have growers within the coopera-
tive market arrangements that I'm connected with that are very
strong for them. It really depends on the times. This year
is the year of the co-ops because they took care of their
members during the freeze. When there was an emergency, they
closed everything off except to their members. They're gonna
return the top dollar. In times where there is a sellers'
market any grower can go out and sell his fruit to anybody
for what they think is more money than the co-ops are gonna
return at the end of the year. That's not a co-op year.
We've had two or three.
Plymouth Citrus Products Company tells our growers--
we have between 1,500 and 2,000 involved in that organiza-
tion--that we will guarantee the consumer market through-
out the year. Eventually, that's all it's ever going to
bring is what it brings at the consumer level. That comes
back to how efficiently you operate your organization. We
have comparative cost studies to show you that our organiza-
tion is just as efficient as the next in their cost. Through
Citrus Central, we think we have a very fine marketing and
supplier organization. If we marketed one twelfth of our
product each month, we guarantee our people what it brings
at the market place. And that's what a co-op is trying to
say to its people. We're looking for the stable market.
W: What are some of the major differences between the Indian
River area and the interior?
G: If you go back to the early years, they tried to keep very
distinct differences in the way that fruit was marketed, the
way it was packed, and the way it was handled. The exchange
that we were connected with for nearly fifty years always
collected a marketing fee over and above our costs. This
was just for the Indian River part of the exchange. We had
about five or six cents a box. That was money used to pro-
mote Indian River citrus in the markets where we were selling.
Generally, most of our fruit years ago was sold through
auction in your major terminal markets such as New York,
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and about eight or nine
of those big markets. There we did our advertising of Indian
River citrus fruit, and particularly Florigold fruit.
W: So, there was more of an emphasis in this area on promotion
than in other areas.
G: This is true. That's the difference in marketing.
W: What about packing? You said there was a distinctive method
of packing in this area, also.
G: You mentioned the Depression years a few minutes ago. Well,
they were always looking for a cheaper method of packing.
They developed what we call the Bruce or the wire bound
crate. It was much cheaper than the standard box that we
used. So, the Indian River, through the efforts of one
man, Roy Brock, insisted that the Indian River stay in the
standard box. We felt the fruit arrived in better condi-
tion, it displayed better, and it kept it distinct from
other fruits that arrived in the wire bound box. [It] cost
a little less to put it in the wire bound box, but we thought
we made more by staying in the box. That was a major thing.
W: Hasn't the emphasis in this area been more on quality rather
G: That's exactly right. Quality. I would mention in your
marketing orders that we'd like to establish certain quality
standards and control the flow of fruit evenly to the market
W: Let's talk about what effects the land boom of the 1920s had
on citrus production in this area.
G: I don't think it had a great deal to do with it. Of course,
this happened all before my time. But take the Indian River
Farms drainage district which was set up with Vero Beach in
the center. The drainage district was established by land
companies who were looking forward to selling the land they
owned for farming and citrus. I don't know as it had a great
deal of effect. I think that it would have been formed one
way or another anyway.
W: Was there a significant increase in acreage during that time?
G: I don't think so.
W: Were there significant numbers of new growers that came into
the area at that time?
G: I'm sure that some came in--bought twenty and forty acre lots
of grove--but your big development in groves really came after
the 1957 freeze on a favorable tax ruling.
W: Could you explain the reasons for that?
G: As I understand, a person could come and buy land, have it
cleared for a crop, and have it all at no added expense. Then
he could have it bedded and set up for a citrus grove. The
only thing that he would have to capitalize would be the cost
of the land, the cost of the tree, and the setting of the tree.
Everything else would be an expense to him. If you were in a
high income tax bracket, it made it very profitable to come in
and plant a big acreage, get them up about four to five years
of age and sell them--take the capital gains on that. There
were many large acreages planted in the state of Florida just
for that purpose. In the late 1960s there was a law passed
that said you had to capitalize everything you spent on the
citrus grove for the first four years. This stopped the big
speculation in Florida citrus groves.
W: Were they investing for four or five years and then selling
G: Yes. I know several people that just continued to plant 1,000
acre groves, sell it, plant another 1,000 and sell it.
W: How did the Boom effect the price of good citrus land?
G: That was all before my time. During the Boom, the land sky-
rocketed and right after the Boom came back down and stayed
W: Do you recall generally some of the price differences?
G: Really I don't. I know that good land out here sold for ten
cents an acre within the last twenty-five years, which was
many years after the boom.
W: How did the collapse of the land boom effect the Indian River
G: Well, we were all broke after it. But it was not so much the
land boom--it was the collapse of the economy of the United
States. The land boom really collapsed in 1925. But where
we started feeling it was in 1929 and 1930--years afterwards.
The lumber business was gone; in fact, it was the whole economy
that collapsed. They say that our collapse came in 1929. We
felt it when we had the stock market collapse, but we felt it
several years prior to that.
W: How did the collapse of the Boom and the subsequent Depression
effect financial institutions?
G: Practically every one of them collapsed here.
W: Were citrus growers heavily involved?
G: Not that I know of. I don't have any information about that.
W: Do you recall when tractors were introduced to the area?
G: I arrived here in 1929, and they were just beginning to use
tractors. They were all the big iron wheel tractors; we didn't
know what a rubber tire tractor was even then.
W: Besides tractors what other major technical and mechanical
innovations have dramatically improved citrus production and
G: We have fertilizer distributors now that we put out in bulk.
We used to get fertilizer in 200 pound bags, take it out, and
put it out by hand. Now we get it in bulk--put it out in bulk
distributors. Instead of spraying by hand, there are what we
call speed sprayers that spray. Our mowing machines are all
on tractors now.
There've been herbicides that have been developed. We
personally don't just use herbicides except very sparingly,
because we really don't believe in them too much. There are
reasons for that. We're very short in organic in our soils
here. I'd rather go out, fertilize the beds, and grow all the
organic I can and then mow and disk them back into the soil.
There's not a great deal of difference in the cost of mowing
a grove and using herbicides. I would much rather grow all the
organic I can and get them into the soil rather than keep them
clean cultivated with herbicides.
W: What changes did the use of all these mechanically powered im-
plements bring to the industry?
G: One labor saving device is the fertilizer distributor with
one man on the tractor and one man on the distributor. We
used to use fifteen to twenty to fertilize. We just don't
have the man power; the difference is the cost of labor. If
we didn't have them, we wouldn't have citrus groves. The same
thing has happened with our spraying. We send one man with
a sprayer out when we used to send three. That one man will
do three or four times the work we did with the crew of three.
W: What about the capital costs of all this equipment? How has
that effected the industry?
G: It's just increased tremendously. You just can't believe that
the first speed sprayers that came out that were gasoline powered
cost about $6,000. We paid about $15,000-$18,000 for a speed
sprayer the other day. Of course, it's diesel powered now,
and they're getting better. But the capital cost is just
tremendous compared to what it use to be.
W: Have growers been forced out of the business or towards
cooperatives because of the costs?
G: No, it's forced growers to become bigger growers, but I don't
think it's forced them out of business. You have to have a
bigger base to operate on because you've got to have more
capital behind you.
W: But is that transition easy to make do you think?
G: It hasn't been easy, but we've managed to do it. It's been
kind of an evolutionary process over the years. The first
diesel tractor I bought nearly thirty years ago cost about
$1,800. Now you talk about $8,000-9,000 for that same tractor.
We're not selling fruit for very much more today per box than
we were thirty years ago. So to survive, we've had to have
saving somewhere. We've had to have increased production on
the same acreage.
W: What I'm thinking about is the marginal citrus grower.
G: Well, I don't think there's any such thing anymore. They
either have to be in or out of the business.
W: What are some of the major scientific innovations which have
improved citrus production?
G: We've had a lot of changes in our cultural practices, and we've
had improved fertilizer programs; we've had the minor element
program that I talked about that was a tremendous innovation
to our citrus industry. I give Dr. Camp and the experiment
station credit for that. Of course, our spray programs have
been improved--our equipment for putting on spray. Our methods
of handling fruit--we've had [to] change that entirely through
W: Would you briefly go into the evolution of the way fruit has
G: We first started by picking fruit and putting it in field boxes
that held two bushels. Now we put it in ten box pallets. We
used to have men that had to go out; pick these field boxes
up; put them on goat trucks; take them in; and load them on
big trucks. Now we have one man on a power loader who picks
up the ten box pallet and puts it on the truck, which is just
reducing labor all the way through. When it originally went
to the processing plant, we used to send a truck load of a-
bout 200 to 300 field boxes and dump them over there by hand.
Now we pick them in bulk, handle them in bulk, and send them
to the processing plant in bulk. The only person that touches
that fruit is the picker when he gets it off the tree. We've
worked hard to try to develop a mechanical method of getting
fruit off the tree; and we have a number of different machines
that have been developed, but none of them have proven very
W: Would you recall when road improvement began in the Indian
G: That all depends on what you call improvement. Most of the
original secondary roads were graded roads along the drainage
canals, using the materials from the canals. Now most of the
major secondary roads throughout the county that are hard-
surfaced have been done in the last twenty years.
W: Would you describe how members of the citrus industry were
active in influencing county and/or state road building in
G: I can't remember any individual other than being on the county
commissions and different things like that. I think we were
influential in that way.
W: What about any trade associations among citrus growers?
G: I can't remember that any of them were really involved. Of
course, citrus has been an important industry in our county
for a long time and many individuals have been a part of the
county government all the way through. In that way they were
W: We've mentioned trucks, but again would you tell me when they
started to become an important means of transportation for
citrus products, and how they have evolved over the years?
G: Well they really started in the central part of the state,
before they did here for the reason that they started selling
their fruit FOB Florida much sooner than we did. Most of our
fruit from this area was shipped to the auction markets or
the major terminal markets of the country; so we continued
with rail much longer than the central part of the state. The
marketing of fresh citrus began to change with the growth of
the large chain stores. They had the volume to purchase in
car or truck lots on a FOB basis. The Indian River continued
to use the auction or terminal markets for a number of years
before really getting into the FOB business. It was easier
to get our product to the terminal markets by rail than it
was by truck.
About twenty-two or twenty-three years ago the Indian
River started selling a large part of their fruit directly
to the big chains. It was easier and cheaper to get it to
them in trucks. We were shipping 100 per cent or 95 per
cent by rail and 5 per cent by truck. In a few years it had
turned the other way around. In the last several years, in
our packing house, we've shipped 100 per cent by truck.
This condition has got to change with the energy crisis
as it is. If we ship 100 trucks to California, it takes 100
diesel trucks. You can take that same 100 loads and ship
them piggy-back by rail so much cheaper. I think you're going
to see a big change in the way the product is sent to market
mainly on account of the energy crisis.
W: Are there other reasons why the shippers have gotten away
from rail transportation?
G: The major reason is just what I said--its convenience. A
major retailer who has a warehouse--we can ship the fruit di-
rectly to that warehouse. If it goes by rail to a terminal
market, it has to be unloaded and handled another time. That's
the fundamental difference.
W: Would you recall when some of the more serious freezes occurred?
G: If I recall, we had a fairly serious freeze in 1934; we had
another one in 1940; we had one in 1957; we had one in 1962;
and the real doozer that hit us was in January of 1977.
W: Would you describe some of the damage that freezes do to the
trees and to the fruit.
G: In this area we have had just minor tree damage in earlier
freezes. But this year we did get tree damage in some areas,
particularly along the Sebastian River. This freeze is the
first one in January that really gave us a significant amount
of tree damage.
W: Why did this particular freeze effect that area more so than
G: The main reason was we had lower temperatures for a longer
duration of time. This is the first time we ever had temp-
eratures down to twenty to twenty-two degrees for ten to
W: What has been done in this area to protect trees?
G: Very little has been done. Even if we had purchased sufficient
heaters to heat our groves, we have not needed them but once
in my forty-eight years. We have no cold protection in most
of our groves because we felt we could not justify their cost.
W: What about flood irrigation in this area?
G: Well, we do use it. We are set up where we have our groves
in blocks. We have 2,200 acres in one block and 1,000 acres
in another. We block off forty or more acres; pump into them;
let the water out; and pump into other similar blocks. So
most of ours is set up for flood irrigation.
W: How has this flood irrigation been used to protect the trees?
G: We don't find that helps out a great deal. I saw ice a half
inch thick where we had water in the groves.
W: Being a costal area, I wonder how hurricanes have effected
G: From 1940 to 1950 we had a fairly substantial hurricane each
year; however, we haven't had a bad one in our area since.
They do quite a bit of damage by blowing fruit off the trees
and generally bruising the remainder. But, generally, the
market makes up for what you have lost on the ground. We have
never had but one hurricane that centered on the citrus in-
dustry, and that was the big 1949 hurricane which centered
on Fort Pierce. It did not hurt us as it was a small hurricane,
but the center of that hurricane hit in October, and they did
not open their packing houses that year. They didn't have
any fresh fruit--it just destroyed it.
The point that I'm making is that if we ever have a
hurricane that centers on an area, it probably will eliminate
all the fruit. The amount of damage it does depends on the
size of the hurricane. The 1949 hurricane centered just south
of Fort Pierce, and it hardly hurt us in Wabasso. The next
year the 1950 hurricane went out of the state just north of
here and hurt us a lot more because we were nearer its center.
I don't know what the people are going to do around Lake
Okeechobee and Hendry County as we've had a number of hurricanes
that centered near Lake Okeechobee. They haven't experienced a
hurricane down there yet, but they just could.
W: You mentioned that the fruit is torn off the tree. What about
other damage to the tree?
G: The one that hit Ft. Pierce uprooted trees. We've never had
one that uprooted trees here, but you can tell a hurricane's
been through--it splits the leaves; it blows many leaves off
W: Isn't that a particular hazard to this area because the roots
aren't as deep here as they are in the central area?
G: Could be. As I say, we have never lost any trees. But we did
have a little twister that hit an area of about ten or twelve
trees and took them out of the ground. There's no question
W: Do you recall how much damage occurred in the Indian River
section during the Mediterranean fruit fly infestation in 1929?
G: I'm trying to recall. There were certain quarantined areas.
I can't recall whether we were quarantined, or we were just out
of it. But [they] were quarantined south and north of us. I
don't think it ever did any actual damage, but it disrupted the
way we operated. The last scare that we had, we had to fumigate
all the fruit to get it out of here.
W: When was that?
G: It was a good ten years ago. How time passes very fast.
W: Is the area still having a problem with the fly?
G: Not with the Mediterranean fruit fly. They had a little trouble
with the Caribbean fly here recently. I don't think they've
found any of those recently. That one was all in the Miami
W: Other than the fruit fly, what other diseases or insects have
threatened citrus production?
G: We have the threat of tristeza on sour orange root stock. We
see a little of that in the groves all the time. The scientists
tell me that if we ever get the vector that spreads the disease,
that the sour orange root stock trees will probably be wiped
W: Is that a disease?
G: Yeah, that's a virus disease. It's the same disease that wiped
out Brazil years ago. They had to go to a new root stock entirely
to build their industry over again. Tristeza is spread by citrus
aphid. We do not have the vector that it spreads in Florida, and
hopefully, we'll never get it. We've had the Black Fly infesta-
tion; we've heard a little bit about it. It hasn't been up here,
and I haven't heard much about it recently. The reason we were
getting these infestations was because we haven't had enough cold
weather. I think last winter we had enough. Maybe that took
care of it. I hope so.
W: What about scales and mites?
G: We still have the same scales and mites we've always had.
W: Are they a significant problem?
G: Oh yes, the scales always have. But we have a wasp that the
station has been releasing, and it's done a tremendous job in
helping us control the red scale in Florida.
W: Let's talk now about the Florida Citrus Commission. I'd like to
ask you some of the reasons why the commission was established.
G: Well, there were no grade and pack standards. Everybody was doing
everything their own way. A group of original rugged individualists
got together, and they came up with this idea of legislation that
would allow them to form the Florida Citrus Commission. The Florida
Citrus Commission was set up not to market anything, but to advertise
and promote Florida citrus, and to set standards of packing and
grading. Fundamentally, it's a regulatory body, and it's set up by
statute. It operates as a division of the state, but everything
is paid for by the Florida citrus growers. It doesn't cost the
W: What changes did the citrus commission bring to the industry?
G: They helped in the promotion of citrus which we needed very
much and still need very badly. They established the pack
standards and grade standards.
W: What about Florida Citrus Mutual? Would you describe some of
the reasons for its development.
G: Florida Citrus Mutual is really an organization to keep the
grower informed and to try to see that we have an orderly in-
dustry. It's an information organization. It tries to keep
Florida growers completely informed as to everything that's
going on in the industry. They say we have the best informed
members in the world. Fundamentally, that's what they're try-
ing to do, that's what they have been doing, and they've done
an excellent job.
W: But they don't actually participate in the marketing of citrus
G: They can't, no, no sir. That's out of their province entirely.
They can suggest programs.
W: What effect did World War II have on the citrus industry?
G: I'd have to go back and think long time because they established
prices on the citrus.
W: How did those prices effect the industry?
G: I'm trying to think whether they used ceiling prices or whether
a minimum price was used.
W: Were the prices generally fair and did the growers get good
G: I think they hurt people like Graves Brothers Company who had
a corporation. We found that during the war we had to pay a
picker more than we were paying the president of the corporation
because they froze all salaries. We could raise the price they
were paying for picking fruit, but we couldn't raise the salary
we were paying the president or officers of the corporation.
W: What about some of the federal loan programs? I'm specifically
interested in how loans to processors effected the industry?
G: You need to go back to your cooperative organizations. Now
this is a corporation for profit such as Coca-Cola. They have
to work through commercial banks. But most of your cooperatives
in the state of Florida have worked with the Bank of Co-ops,
which, for this district, is located in Columbia, South Carolina.
The Bank of Co-ops was established under the Farm Credit Act,
I believe,1933. There're three banks in the third farm credit
district: a Federal Land Bank, Intermediate Credit Bank, and
the Bank of Co-ops. The Land Bank makes long term loans to the
growers. Short term or production loans are made by the Pro-
duction Credit Associations, who discount their paper with the
Intermediate Credit Bank. Those are production loans which in-
dividuals and corporations can go to. Thirdly you have the Bank
of Co-ops, and they deal directly with the cooperative organi-
zations. I'll use two organizations I am familiar with i.e.
Plymouth Citrus Products Co-op and Citrus Central. We have fi-
nanced those organizations almost entirely through the Bank of
People should realize that a farmer can't go out and sell
stock and get free capital as a corporation for profit can. For
example General Motors, when they need money, they put on a stock
issue. Wouldn't anybody buy our stock. So we have had to gen-
erate our own capital through the years through loans from the
Bank of Co-ops, plus what we pay in in capital retains to cap-
italize the business. That was one of the reasons for the Farm
Credit Act. Congress realized that a farmer didn't have the
access to the money markets the way individual corporations did;
but banded together they could. The Bank of Co-ops, the Land
Bank, or the Farm Credit Banks get their money to lend to us
from the capital money markets. They sell their own bonds and
debentures there, to get the money and led to us. There's where
our money comes from, and that's the way many of our groves and
processing plants have been financed--by groups of individual
W: That was also an integral part of the financing which led to the
development of the concentrate business.
G: That's exactly true. I can name you several of the big plants
in the state of Florida that owe their existence to the farm
credit. I'd say Donald Duck, Golden Gem, Ordo, Plymouth are
just a few of them.
W: Could you mention some of the changes that have occurred
within the citrus industry because of frozen concentrate
G: What the concentrate did for us, it gave us year round market-
ing of orange juice. We had to market our product during the
months fruit was on the tree and was available. Now that we
put it in the concentrate, it gives you a year round market.
It made a convenience food out of it, and hopefully it will
stay a convenience food to the average person. People who
live in an apartment have problems getting rid of the garbage.
They don't want fresh orange juice to get rid of.
W: Hasn't the growth of the processing industry also offered a
market for the grower for his misshapen and lower grades of
G: Well this is true. When you grade fresh fruit, it's graded and
sold on its external appearances rather than on the internal
quality. When we sell oranges to a processing plant, it's sold
on the basis of its internal quality and the test. We're paid
for the internal quality of that fruit. It makes no difference
whether it's misshapen or not.
W: Would you tell me what effect the presence of large corporations
such as Coca-Cola and Tropicana has had on the industry in gen-
G: Of course, they've had a great deal of effect. They are ad-
vertising and promoting citrus. We all advertise, promote, and
honestly try to do a good job--we're extending the base that we
can sell citrus on. I think they're a help to that extent.
W: What about the role of the individual growers, packers, and
shippers since the entrance of these large corporations? Have
a lot of the small time people been absorbed?
G: I don't think so. Tropicana does not materially own many groves.
It was Minute Maid Corporation prior to Coca-Cola, and I don't
believe that Coca-Cola has expanded their grove acreage. They're
trying to expand their marketing of citrus, and the more they
expand it I think the more all of us will sell. But I don't
think they're trying to buy out groves. If they are, I don't
know anything about it.
W: Were the groves that they purchased developed on new land?
G: That I can't tell you. When Minute Maid first started, they
just bought groves period. There was a very depressed market
on citrus. I know of groves that they bought for $300 an acre.
W: When was this?
G: Before or about the time concentrate was just getting started.
I don't know any great number of groves like that. I heard of
one grove in the Orlando area. The asking price was $300 an
acre. The man that was the attorney handling the sale wanted
to know about a certain person that I had just heard of. He
said he drove him up to the grove, was asked the price, which
I recall was $300 per acre, and the man bought it without
further inspection. Later I found out that he was associated
with Minute Maid. That was many years before Coca-Cola had
anything to do with citrus; this was before concentrate was
even really started.
W: Would you contrast the price of good grove land when you first
started in the business with what it is today?
G: A lot of good grove land sold for $1.00 an acre thirty-five or
forty years ago that you couldn't touch for $900 an acre today.
Many large acreages sold for $10 and $12 an acre. The last
few years, with all the emphasis on the ecological balance, it'd
be almost impossible to go out and develop a new area of groves
today. I'm talking about go out, cut your ditches, and set up
a drainage district. It'd be almost an impossibility to expand
anything other than what we have now in a drainage district.
W: What have been some of the reasons for the dramatic increase in
the price of citrus land?
G: The same thing that I said. These people that are so ecology
minded. I think it's eleven or twelve boards that you have to
get approval of now before you can go out and develop a new
piece of land. With one board having to approve everything that
the other board did, none of them want to approve anything.
W: What has been the attitude of fresh fruit shippers towards the
processing industry since the beginning of frozen concentrate
G: It's been very varied. As far as my company's concerned,
we've always worked very closely with them.
W: Was there some initial fears among shippers that perhaps they
would lose their business because of the growth of the con-
G: Oh I don't know whether it was that so much. We had to expand
our markets, and we've done it through processing. If we didn't
have the processing industry, we wouldn't have the production
of fruit that we have in the state today.
W: Would you describe what effect the growth of the space industry
had on production in the Indian River area?
G: I can't think of anything that they added greatly.
W: How about things they subtracted from it--the groves and the
G: They didn't subtract a great deal. The most they subtracted
was a few groves up on Merritt Island. I don't know the acreage
that was involved. I doubt it if was 5,000 acres in total.
W: How has the growth of urban areas in the Indian River area
effected citrus production?
G: I don't think it's effected the Indian River very much yet. I
don't know whether it will or not. But listening to Henry Swan-
son, county agent in Orlando, it has effected quite a few groves
in that area. Just how many acres, I don't know. The urban
growth in California has really been a big factor in the Los
Angeles area and other urban areas. I think that the urban areas
have to go out a long way before it gets to the citrus producing
W: What about the price of land?
G: The price of land has skyrocketed in the last few years. Mainly
as I said on account of the ecology.
W: What effect has the development of urban areas and' the speculation
involved in that had on the price of land?
G: Everything that pushes any value up is gonna have some effect over
all of it. In Florida we've had the green belt law, thank the Lord.
The assessor could come in and say, "You could start a subdivision
here." It may be ten miles from any populated place. As a
grove, your property would have a fair market value of say
$1,500 an acre, but you could sub-divide it so it has a
potential value of $15,000 an acre. The green law says they
have to assess your land for what it's used. As long as we
have the green belt law, I think we can survive. They're
coming up with new methods of arriving at what the land is
worth based on what you're earning off of it, but I think it
will be all right in the long run.
W: Would you tell me how you view the future of the citrus in-
dustry in the Indian River area?
G: Well, I think the future's very bright. I thought we were
going through some depressed years on account of our production
being a little bit more than we could sell. But we were bal-
ancing out our production with consumption. With the tax laws
on new plantings, plus the problems of opening up new land, I
just don't think you're going to expand citrus very much. I
don't think your production is gonna be frozen, but you're not
going to have tremendous increases in production. I think our
production will grow with the growth of the nation, and we
will probably come out with fair profit in the next few years
on our citrus.
W: I have just one last question. I'd like to know how you got
the name Rip.
G: It's a long story. We had a man that worked for our company
by the name of Jack Campbell. Jack lived until his nineties.
He was pretty old when he worked at our saw mill in Hosford.
Jack claimed that he had been a slave back in Richmond, Virginia.
My nickname was Rich but Jack couldn't say Rich--he said Rip.
Everybody thought that was better than Rich. So, all of a sudden
Jack Campbell gave me the name Rip. They've published a history
of Gadsden County and pictures of things. There's a group of
people standing out in front of the Gollsen store at River
Junction. There's one colored man there with a long handle
bar mustache. Edgar Scarborough told me,. "Rip, be sure to look
at that picture." He said, "That's Jack Campbell." By golly
I looked at it--it was Jack Campbell; I recognized him. Jack
was a character if I ever knew one.
W: That's all the questions I have. I would like to thank you,
Mr. Graves, for cooperating with me. I want to tell you that
you will receive a transcript of this interview in exchange
for granting the interview. Also, you'll have the right to
check the interview for any possible errors or to clarify
anything. You also have the right to close off any portion
of the interview for any period of time left to your discre-
G: I don't think I need to change it. I told as near as I could
the way it was.
W: You understand these three things?
W: Fine. Thank you very much.