ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Fred Lawrence
INTERVIEWER: Paul Weaver
DATE: June 13, 1977
W: This is Paul Weaver, and I'm talking with Mr. Fred Lawrence.
Mr. Lawrence is generally regarded as one of the leading
citriculturists in the state. He worked with the Agricul-
tural Extension Service as their citriculturist for nearly
thirty years; he's been a professor of citriculture at the
University of Florida also for a number of years; and he has
been a technical advisor to a multitude of citrus and busi-
ness organizations. I'm talking with Mr. Lawrence June 13,
1977, at Dan McCarty Hall, Room G 197. Mr. Lawrence's home
address is 2805 S.W. First Avenue, Gainesville, and the zip
code is 32607. Mr. Lawrence, I'd like to begin by asking
you when and how you became involved in the Florida citrus
L: Paul, I became involved in the Florida citrus industry in
two ways. First, my family moved to Florida in 1917 when
I was a lad of about six years of age. And being a child
playing in the orange groves I learned that I could take
the seeds and the young plants that had germinated in rotting
fruit, plant them, and make them live. So, I became a citri-
culturist from the very beginning playing in the backyard.
G: Where did your family come from?
L: They came from middle Tennessee--a little town near Nashville
W: And why exactly did your family move to Florida?
L: It was a rather sudden decision, because of my Grandfather
Lawrence's health. They moved to Florida thinking that the
climate would be better for him, and it was. He lived a num-
ber of years after we came to Florida.
W: You mentioned that when you came to Florida your family already
owned orange groves. How did they originally get into the
L: My grandfather Parker came to Florida once or twice in winter
to visit friends near Winter Garden, and he became interested
in the Florida citrus industry. In, I believe, March of 1917
he bought a small producing grove of seedling trees that had
lived through the 1894-1895 freeze from a fellow by the name
of Keogle. We had that property to move on to, and we came
down immediately with my Grandfather Lawrence. As time passed
we bought several adjacent small tracts of land and developed
our place. We still own most of the original purchases in
West Orange County.
W: Where is this?
L: We live about half way between Gotha and Windermere, two little
towns out there in the lake section of west Orange County.
W: Would you describe what the Florida citrus industry was like
when you first became involved?
L: As a young person I can remember there were great arguments
over production, green fruit, and unethical practices within
the industry. These problems continued, and as you probably
know, there's still a little bit of it going on even today.
Through the years until World War II, the industry was not
thriving too well. It was struggling because of problems
with diseases and mineral deficiencies. And the industry
was not doing too well marketing fruit.
W: You mentioned unethical practices. What were some of those?
Was it problems with the sales system?
L: Basically, yes. It was shipping immature fruit--fruit that
wasn't first class. Dealers would flood the market with it.
The system of course wasn't refined as it is today. We shipped
a lot of stuff to auction markets. We still ship some to
auction markets, but the methods have been changed tremendously.
W: What were the principal forms of transportation when you first
became involved in the industry?
L: Of course, at that time practically everything in agriculture
was done by mules. The major transport system was railroads.
Some locomotives burned wood, but the major lines had coal
burning locomotives. They ultimately converted to diesel.
The line that served our area of the state was a wood burner.
As a matter of fact I've cut many a cord of lightwood to fire
the train that came by. There was a yard right near our grove.
We filled the racks every day, twice a day for the train when
it went south and then when it came back going north.
W: Would you describe some of the tasks that the mules were
required to do?
L: When we came from Tennessee to Florida, we came with the
equipment we had in Tennessee, which was narrowed tired
wheels that were totally unsuited to Florida conditions.
We had to weld wider metal rims to the tires of the wheels,
extending them from about three inches to about eight
inches before we could have flotation sufficient for the
mules to pull the load. To give you an idea, fertilizer
in those days came in jute bags by rail and was delivered
to the nearest rail siding to your property. In our case
we happened to be only about a half a mile from a rail
side. You had to take your mules and wagon, go to the
box car, and haul those 200 pound jute bags of fertilizer
back to the grove-and then distribute it by hand from
buckets. The mule was your primary source of transpor-
tation. You didn't only in those early days use him to
haul stuff in the grove, but you went grocery shopping
on Saturday with him, also.
W: And the mule was used for the basic cultivation and all
on-farm transportation too, wasn't he?
L: Everything but hand labor.
W: How was citrus grown and cultivated at that time, con-
trasting that with the way it is done today?
L: Basically, it was by hand and mule. In other words you
did an awful lot of hoeing and this type thing by hand.
We're talking of actual culture now. The rest of it you
used the mule to pull the appropriate tool. Your primary
tool in those days was an Acme harrow and turn-plow.
Hopefully, you'll be able to find one or two of the old
Acme harrows, or at least get a few blades from one to
get into your museum. I spent practically every afternoon
after school with a team of mules with an Acme harrow
going through the groves, because my family at that time
believed that dust mulch would keep the moisture up in
the grove soil. So we cultivated practically around the
W: How were trees different from those you find today? Now
you mentioned seedling trees that your family owned. Those
were pretty rare, weren't they?
L: No, that was practically the only thing. They're beginning
to be rare now--seedling trees in the state of Florida are
practically extinct. It was a good quality fruit. There's
nothing wrong with the fruit. You had seedlings of all
varieties. But the trees were tall; they were thorny; they
were hard to get the fruit out of--that type of situation.
Some were shy bearers and others would be good bearers, but
you never knew which was which until you had them in the
grove for fifteen or twenty years. That was a major draw-
back. It takes anywhere from ten to fifteen years for a
tree to come into commercial production from seed. Back
in the teens and the early twenties we shifted over to
budded or grafted tree whichever you'd like. These trees
come into production in roughly five years. So there's
a considerable difference now in the method of growing
W: Would you describe the marketing system in a little bit
L: Well, it was totally fresh fruit. We had nothing in the
world but fresh fruit to sell until the mid-twenties. I
think we started processing a little bit of grapefruit by
the hot pack method from 1925 to 1930. But it wasn't until
the discovery of frozen concentrate which came at the close
of World War II that the industry began to change from
strictly a fresh fruit industry. Incidentally, we were
always struggling to find markets to sell the fresh fruit,
because we always had an over supply.
W: Could yo describe some of the problems with the old mar-
L: Well, it was a lack of organization as you could imagine--
a lack of proper distribution. Fruit usually went to about
nine terminal markets. The fruit went to these markets
and was auctioned off from there. Another thing that
you'll probably want to touch on was the distribution of
fruit. Whenever you went to the terminal market, the fruit
had to be unloaded, set on the platform, moved into the
house, sold and then moved out of the house onto another
conveyance to get it to where it was going. Thus, it had
to be handled several times, and each time it was handled
it cost about $.05 to $.07 a box. That got to be mighty
expensive before the grower ever got anything returned back
W: And there was generally no FOB at that time, right?
L: [There was] very little FOB sales at all in those days.
There were some certainly, and those were the good ones.
The grower at least knew what he was going to receive for
his fruit. Whereas the other way he sometimes got a bill
for freight. Those were some of the major problems. As I
already indicated, we didn't always ship the best quality
fruit which hurts more.
W: Was there a problem with the honesty of the sales agent?
L: Oh, you hear all sorts of stories, but basically I think
the sales agents were about as honest as you could expect.
I think they all did a fair job with it.
W: Let's talk about when tractors were first introduced to
L: Well, certainly you can't set a specific date, but in the
early 1920s we began to get tractors coming into the industry.
The primary tractor in Florida was the Fordson tractor. They
came equipped with big steel tires with lugs on them. These
were totally unsuited to Florida conditions, because in our
sand soil they would successfully bury themselves rather than
pull the load through the grove. It wasn't till Hoyle Pounds
learned to take old abandoned rubber truck tires, bolt them
together three per wheel, and put cement in them, which gave
better flotation and pulling ability, that the tractor really
began to come along. And we might add that it wasn't long
after that till pneumatic tires were developed, and loaded
with water and air which made the tractor a real asset to
the Florida citrus industry.
W: And what was this man's name again?
L: Hoyle Pounds of Pounds Motor Company in Winter Garden, Florida.
I believe one of his sons is still in the business, running
Pounds Motor Company in Winter Garden right now. Mr. Pounds
was an innovator and did an awful lot of work that helped
W: Beside tractors what were some of the other major technical
and mechanical innovations which have improved citrus culti7
L: We had to spray for insects, and spray machines of a sort
were in. Just t give you an idea of what's happened over the
years, when I was a young lad, my duty was to ride a mule
in a six mule team. The six mules pulled a 250 gallon
wooden tank mounted on four cast iron wheels. This spray
machine was powered by an old one cylinder Narvo motor. Some
days you'd put out three and some days, if you were lucky and
the motor worked, you would put out as many as ten or twelve
tanks. It was a very slow job. You drove the spray machine
into the lake and lifted the water into the tank with buckets.
Ultimately, suction pumps were developed and put on the machines.
But, originally, you just drove the spray machine into the lake,
dipped up your water, added the spray chemical and mixed the
W: Would you describe how that process has changed over time?
L: The process has changed to where we now have several types
of sprayers--even aerial applicators such as helicopters and
fixed-winged planes. Our primary sprayer, however, is the
airblast sprayer with fiberglass or stainless steel tanks with
a capacity of 500 gallons. Some have 800 and some 1000 gallon
capacity with a powerful motor that operates a huge fan which
blows the spray into the trees. So, it's a long ways from
the mules and the 250 gallon tank to the application of spray
W: Was this the speed sprayer you were talking about?
L: Yes, speed sprayers are similar. The speed sprayer is one
of several types of sprayers in use today.
W: When did they begin to be used?
L: We were still applying stuff with mules when the Mediterranean
fruit fly occurred in 1929 and 1930. It was probably around
World War II or the late 1940s when we started using airblast
machines, such as the speed sprayer.
W: We've talked about the tractor and the airblast machines.
Were there any other significant technical or mechanical
innovations other than those?
L: Certainly those were two of the great ones, but we had many
innovations in equipment. We will talk about some later which
came in as a result of World War II. But up through this
period the tractor and the spray machine are the two big
advancements in good equipment. One must remember that in
the early days of the spray machine and tractor there were
no wet-cell storage batteries. All farm motors and quite
a few automobiles used magnets to supply electrical current,
and therefore had to be hand cranked. In addition to problems
of slow starting it was a hazardous process that frequently
led to skinned knuckles and broken arms. Therefore, I would
have to say that the development of storage batteries, re-
finement of carburators, improved cooling systems, and the
invention of self-starters were among the other mechanical
innovations leading to present day equipment.
There were changes in packing house equipment and methods
that also helped. Around 1915 to 1920 packing house equipment
started to be mechanized. Lots of changes have been made,
and it's very difficult to enumerate the times that it all
came in. As I have mentioned earlier, we used to talk about
the shipment of green fruit. First, let me explain here
that there are two types of green fruit. Just because a fruit
is green in color doesn't necessarily mean that it's not mature.
It depends on the variety. For instance, the Valencia orange
will hang on a tree from thirteen to sixteen months after
blossom. It goes from one spring through the following spring.
Now the second spring a tree of the Valencia variety will
have bloom, green fruit, and ripe fruit on it simultaneously.
However, as spring comes with that ripe fruit on the tree,
the trees start to grow. The fruit [is] green even though
[it is] mature. Thus, to make them appear proper and have
the most appeal to the consumer's eye you have to de-green
There are several processes. One is color-add which is
a process of dying the fruit. The use of methane gas is
another. Originally, we used methane gas which was generated
with old kerosene burners and such things. They had a tre-
mendous amount of heat in them, and this is where some un-
ethical practices start. A lot of green Hamlin oranges, which
were the earliest fruit in those days, would be put in the
packing house, smoked out, and cooked. Just think of all the
things that could go wrong under those conditions--not enough
humidity and everything. Now- we use refined methane gas
and regulated temperatures. And the coloring rooms are a
beautiful clean operation where they used to be just smudge
pots. So there has been tremendous change in the operations.
There has been changes in handling the fruit. The fruit
used to come to the packing house in boxes and had to be
dumped by hand into washwater. Now the fruit comes in pallets
or in larger boxes and is automatically dumped. And all the
processing lines and everything have been changed. You can
even grade fruit now by electric eye, and a lot of it is
graded that way. So the changes have been legion.
W: Were the conveyor belts in the packing houses powered by
machines or by hand?
L: At one time it was all done by hand. They were able to use
mule power to turn equipment to run belts and so forth. Then
it went from that to the stationary motor and finally to electrical
motors and gears. We operate now primarily from all electrical
motors and running conveyor belts. Originally, all packing
crates had to be assembled by hand up in the packing loft and
brought down by hand. Now all this is done mechanically. Of
course, we don't use many wooden boxes anymore. [We] ship with
cardboard cartons and plastic and mesh bags. So the packing
house and its operation has changed tremendously over the years.
W: What changes did the use of these machine powered implements
bring to the industry?
L: Well, primarily expansion and a better product going to the
consumer. It also reduced the need for labor. Back when we
were using mules and hand equipment and having to hoe and bank
by hand, it used to take on the average of five men to operate
a forty acre grove. Now that has changed. With equipment
and machinery such as the mechanical bankers, mechanical hoe
machines, herbicide applicators, and the many, many new machines,
I would estimate one man can cultivate eighty to a hundred acres.
So you can see immediately what improved power and equipment
has done for the citrus grower.
W: How has the capital costs of all this equipment affected the
L: Well, I can remember when anybody with the will and the desire
for hard labor could take a grubbing hoe and for $5.50 buy an
acre of land, go out and dig up the black jacks,and grow citrus
trees. But that has all changed, and World War II brought
around the biggest changes. Prior to World War II everything
was done basically by hand. The citrus land was cleared by
hand with a grubbing hoe, hand piling and burning the debris.
One thought in terms of clearing a maximum of eighty acres
under those conditions.
World War II brought two tools to the Florida citrus
industry that caused unlimited expansion--the bulldozer and
the drag line. The drag line wasn't immediately used, be-
cause we were still farming on dry sandy soil. But right
after World War II one of the greatest innovations I ever
saw was two D-8 caterpillar tractors with a one hundred foot
length of battleship anchor chain hitched between the draw
bar of those two tractors cutting about a sixty foot swath
of trees at a lick. They were just driving right through
the woods and dragging those trees down. Another bulldozer
with a rake blade on it would "wind-row" (the trees) and
then they would be burned. One could clear land mighty
fast that way. This accelerated rate of planting brought
another period of change in the citrus industry--we ran
out of good sandy soil. It began to run short in the late
1950s. It was at this time that we decided we could take
wet or inundated soils that are subject to flooding, use
drag lines to dig canals to drain them, and build dykes
around them to prevent re-flooding. To do this one had
more or less form his own drainage district. So instead of
thinking in terms of forty, sixty, eighty, or even three
hundred twenty acres as was customary in former years, we
began to think in terms of sections and even townships for
developing. So implementation has been the life blood of
the expansion of the Florida citrus industry. It has taken
us from just a few thousand acres to almost a million.
W: So citrus during your lifetime has gone from a backyard
practice to a major agribusiness.
L: Well, it's gone from family operated five, ten, twenty, forty,
and a few hundred acre groves to multiple hundreds and thou-
sands of acres now with many being cooperatively operated.
W: Let's touch on another subject for a moment. I'd like to
ask you when road improvement began in Orange County.
L: Orange County was one of the first counties in the state to
develop an improved road system. I think they were also
the first. to have a speed limit. In the teens they were
building nine foot brick roads. For instance, the road from
Winter Garden to Orlando was a nine foot brick road with a
four inch concrete curb on either side. When cars met, they
had to pull off on the shoulder of the road to pass each
other. You could get into some great big sand holes and get
stuck pretty easily if not careful. Nevertheless, when you
had it all to yourself, it was clear sailing. Roads have
changed a lot in my lifetime. In 1922 my family got a con-
tract to help build the road from Windermere out to the
Orlando-Winter Garden brick road. The clearing was all
done by mule team and hand labor, but trucks were used to haul
rock and asphalt to pave the road surface.
W: Would you describe what some of the roads were like?
L: Clay was your biggest improved roads in those days, but the
brick roads were the first step to paving. This was followed
by lime rock and asphalt, and all were made wider.
W: How were citrus businessmen involved in these county and state
road building programs?
L: Basically, agricultural people got contracts to help build
these roads. This was prior to the primary contractors that
we now have. Unlike today road building equipment wasn't
much at that time. The lime rock pits and the hot asphalt
plant of 1922 were the first that we saw. In the early times
growers would get contracts to build roads during the off
season, usually during the summertime when they were not
employed in their groves. Then, they'd build a little
stretch of road and maintain it.
W: Who paid these contracts that were granted to the growers?
L: The counties in those days paid for the work. The counties
were responsible for building the roads and their maintenance.
Uncle Sam wasn't vitally interested as he is these days.
W: Were there any formal organizations among citrus growers who
were actively lobbying the county and the state for road
L: No, I really don't believe there were such lobby groups.
Certainly, the growers in an area would meet with their county
commission and discuss the need for roads. I think it was on
a need basis that the county did the work, and it seemed to
be satisfactory in those days.
W: When did trucks become an important means of transportation
for citrus products?
L: Just like tractors I'm not certain. In my recollection,
(during) the early 1920s we began to get trucks. I remember
in the Med-fly infestation in 1929 I had the use of a chain
drive Mack truck to haul Hershey brown sugar out in to the
groves. The brown sugar was part of the bait. Ford trucks
in those days were too light and too small. My family had
a one ton Ford truck that we used around 1925 to 1930. It
was called a ton truck, but it wasn't much. Incidentally,
farmers actually customized this equipment. For instance,
we had an old truck, and we put a Buick transmission, a
special ratio rear end, and ultimately a Bosch ignition
system in it. We rebuilt them and made them to suit our-
selves. Actually, the trucks of the day were Hug, Mack,
Autocar, and Reo. A Reo truck in those days was better and
looked on more favorably than most, because it had more
W: What were trucks used for initially?
L: Trucks did not haul the fruit to market--only to the local
rail-side packing houses. In the North trucks were in use
in the teens to transport the fruit from the terminal markets
to the dealers and dealerships and ultimately to retail outlets.
Our primary use of the truck in the citrus industry was to
place it on a clay or improved road nearest the orchard where
they could operate. We used teams of mules in the groves to
haul the fruit out to the truck. You loaded the ninety pound
boxes of fruit by hand in the grove four boxes high on this
wagon, and then haul them out and stack them on the truck
four high. The truck was able to carry a few more boxes than
the team of mules. I've forgotten what they carried now, but
they carried perhaps as many as forty to fifty boxes per load.
W: Why have trucks largely replaced railroads as the major means
of transportation for citrus products?
L: Well, I'm not an authority on this, but basically union labor
at the terminal markets was the cause. As I told you earlier
in this interview, fruit going to the terminal market had to
be moved three, four, and five times before it ever got onto
the truck to be unloaded at the dealership. By present methods
one can load a truck and send it from Florida to an individual
store in California. In other words, [one has] versatility
with fewer middlemen, and, consequently, it's cheaper.
W: When to the best of your recollection did some of the more
serious freezes in Florida occur?
L: Historically, the first major freeze in Florida was in 1835,
but we didn't have much citrus acreage then. In those days
the primary plantings were in north Florida around Waldo, in
Orange Lake between Hawthorne and Melrose, around Orange Lake,
and along the St. Johns River up to Mandarin. It grew primari-
ly in hammocks. Farmers and promoters or land developers re-
juvenated interest in citrus soon after the freeze and plant-
ings were made as far south as Lake Harris and Lake George.
Then came the big freezes of 1894-1895. Following that freeze,
growers generally gave up hammock soils and began planting on
the sandy, ridge soils of interior Florida. There were many
lesser freezes between 1895 and the big freeze of 1962, but
in spite of them the industry continued to expand. However,
prior to 1947 we shipped only to the fresh fruit market. So
you can see if you had a fruit that because of cold damage was
even just a little bit dry on the stem end, people didn't
like it. It wasn't as juicy and firm as those that were not
cold-damaged. In summary, prior to the advent of frozen con-
centrate in 1947, freezes were tremendously important and
we had a number of them. The worst were in 1934 and 1940.
Subsequent to 1947 our worst freezes occurred in 1952, 1957,
and 1962. Of course 1962 was probably the worst freeze we've
ever had primarily because of the vastness of the industry--
almost a million acres were involved. Then again this last
spring we had a rather severe freeze. We've had a period of
freezes all along that has damaged the industry, and in two
instances, it was devastating. Ironically, freezes have
stimulated citrus plantings, because it temporarily elimin-
ated over production and stimulated prices.
W: Why was the freeze of 1962 so harsh?
L: There are lots of reasons for it but the primary one is a
drastically reduced supply. It was just a severe freeze.
For instance, it was around eleven degrees for a number of
hours right here on this campus.
W: What about the effect of the freezes on the trees themselves?
L: Of course, a freeze can totally kill a tree and has killed
many trees. Many bearing trees were killed in 1962, and many
others were severely damaged by total loss of foliage and
all twigs and limbs up to two inches in diameter. Such trees
seldom are fruitful for a period of three to four years and
require additional expensive pruning and cultural care prior
to returning to a state of productivity. Lighter damage may
only cause partial defoliation and the loss of terminal twigs.
Such damage is usually overcome in one to two years.
W: I'd also like to ask you how hurricanes have affected citrus
L: Well, I'm going to give you answer you probably didn't ex-
pect. Up until now I would say hurricanes have usually been
more helpful than harmful. They bring water, and up until the
1960s fruit was grown primarily on the sand ridges of the
state. This may change, because following the 1962 freeze
we started developing flatwood soil lands that are poorly
drained and subject to flooding. I would guess we probably
have 250,000 acres or more on these soils that are subject
to flooding. Even Donna, the last severe hurricane we had,
occurred prior to the industry's expansion into areas that
may well be more seriously damaged.
W: Would you describe some of the damage a hurricane can do?
L: Some of the negative effects we've had happened at Spring
Lake in Pasco County. An area of a dam broke and washed
out a considerable number of citrus trees. The greatest
damage is knocking the fruit to the ground and breaking
limbs. As for extensive damage to the entire citrus indus-
try perhaps hurricane Donna was our worst. There were a lot
of trees uprooted and perhaps as many as two or three million
boxes of fruit were lost. Hurricane damage is-not as severe
as a freeze. When a grower gets hit by a freeze it usually
takes his entire crop, but a hurricane may just get a part
of the grove and not take out all the trees and fruit in
W: How badly damaged was the Florida citrus industry during the
Mediterranean fruit fly infestation of 1929?
L: This again depends on where your grove was. As I remember,
the area of infestation of the state was divided into three
areas--zone one, zone two, and zone three. Fruit in zone
one was condemned and destroyed; in zone two it had to be
fumigated; and zone three was free to be shipped. So, if
you happened to be an unfortunate grower, as was my family,
and your fruit was in zone one, it was condemned. In our
case it was carried to a clay pit and covered over with quick
lime and destroyed completely. It was the growers' loss. One
must also remember the failing of the banks that happened in
1929 and the early 1930s to understand the citrus grower's
very weakened financial condition.
Ironically, the biggest complaint pertaining to the
eradication program came from home owners. This was because
no one knew exactly how to control the fly to start with.
They went into peoples yards, cut down their favorite guava
bushes, and dug up their prized papaya plants--all things that
were known host plants. You can see that you'd be willing
to get your shotgun, as some people did, and dare the in-
spectors to dig them up. Irrespective, the government got
court orders and actually took all host plants. They also
had road blockades and guards, and stopped the transportation
of fruit and vegetables that were subject to the Med-fly.
In that way the pest was contained and didn't get too far
north in the state. After eighteen months it was actually
eradicated. The primary control was a poison bait--arsenic
of lead, brown sugar, and I believe a little syrup sometimes
was added to water. Crews sprayed a little area in each tree.
As the machine passed, no attempt was made to completely
cover an individual tree with spray bait.
W: Would you describe some of your personal experiences in deal-
ing with the fly. I know your family was hit very hard by
L: Well, we weren't worst hit than other people who happened to
be in zone one. I had come here to the university to go to
school when the fly was discovered. The failing of the banks
and the Mediterranean fruit fly infestation necessitated my
leaving school, going home, and going to work. We were for-
tunate to have sufficient teams and spray machines that we
were able to [rent] our equipment to the control program.
This gave us an income that kept us alive so to speak. All
during the campaign my family worked in the eradication pro-
gram. We had first hand experience with it.
W: But you weren't actually shipping any fruit during this time?
L: No, we didn't ship any fruit. My father had to manage to
finance the next several crops the best he could as we were
then in the Depression.
W: You mentioned bank failures several times. I'd like to
ask you how the fruit fly infestation was related to some
of these bank failures.
L: I don't think the fruit fly particularly had anything to do
with the failure of the banks. It just happened to occur
about that time. If one had lost all of his fruit and gotten
no money for it and then went down to the bank to get a little
bit of money to buy groceries and found the bank shut, he
found that he was in a very bad position. This is the position
that many people found themselves in at that time. It affect-
ed all people about alike--some probably a little worse than
others. But let me hasten to say that people helped each
other back in those days a lot more than they do now. In
other words, the grocery man didn't cut you off because you
couldn't pay for the food. He managed to give you credit.
Actually, in those days people on the farm lived basically
off the farm, so it wasn't as bad as it seemed. You learned
to eat black-eyed peas and enjoy them.
W: Let's talk a minute about some other diseases and insects
which have threatened citrus production. Would you name a
few of the more important ones?
L: The real important one I presume was citrus canker, a
bacterial disease that came into the state in 1912. This
particular disease led to the formation of the state plant
board, now known as the Division of Plant Industry. However,
the way the disease was ultimately controlled was to condemn
the trees that were infected, dig them up, and burn them.
The disease was so contagious that the inspectors who went
into the groves had their clothes actually taken off as they
came out of an infested area, and washed in a strong dis-
infectant or burned. The disease wasn't easily controlled
and actually didn't really leave the state till 1927. Citrus
canker is perhaps the most dreaded disease that has ever
invaded the Florida citrus industry, and it was successfully
The next real catastrophe was the Depression. It
certainly had an adverse effect because one didn't have the
money to buy the fertilizers, sprays, and other materials.
As a result, Florida citrus growers learned to grow citrus
with cover crops, mulches, and things of this nature. Even
so, they were able to get a fair yield of fruit out of the
trees and a little money out of the fruit. So they managed
to get along reasonably well.
From the days of the Depression until the 1950s, Florida
citrus wasn't very thrifty. Trees were sickly and production
was low. It wasn't until the discovery of the role of what
we call minor elements--zinc, manganese, magnesium, iron,
copper, and others--that tree condition and yield continued
to improve. During the mid-1930s and up through the mid-
1940s Florida citrus was declining to the point it was
basically uneconomical. Coming back to the diseases that
have threatened the industry, tristeza came into the state
in 1952. It was first discovered by county agent Fred
Batesman in Orange County in a grove at Tildenville. Al-
though we have not controlled tristeza in the state, we have
learned to use root stocks that are resistant to or tolerant
of the disease. However, we still have as much as 20 per
cent of our total acreage on susceptible root stocks, and
many of those groves are being decimated at this time.
Actually, the disease is becoming more active in some areas
than it's ever been. So it is a problem.
Then we have a condition known as spreading decline.
It is so called because of its spread from a sick tree. It
spreads in all directions at about one hundred feet a year.
It's a creeping situation, hence we called it spread and
decline until we finally found out it was caused by the burrow-
ing nematode. I won't give you the scientific name, because
it doesn't mean much to a novice. To control it we learned
to bulldoze those areas affected, burn the trees, sterilize
the soil, and replant with nematode resistant root stocks
which were developed by our federal and state research people.
So this industry you might say survives totally on research.
Following the burrowing nematode, we have one that we
are now combating, and we have not yet specifically found
what is causing the trouble. The condition is being called
sand hill decline or young tree decline. Diseased trees
look like trees did in the mid-1940s when they were deficient
of minor elements. They just naturally get hard and off color,
and decline to the point that they are not productive. Also,
we've had another fruit fly come into the state in recent
years. It is the Caribbean fruit fly which has given us a
problem. And then more recently we've gotten the black fly.
We had the black fly in Key West back in 1929 or 1930. For-
tunately, it was eradicated before it spread to the mainland.
Those are some of the major pests and diseases which have
invaded our Florida citrus industry.
W: Where is young tree decline concentrated?
L: It is not in any particular local...it's all over the state.
Originally, we thought it was confined only to the sand ridge
of the state, but we found it in all areas of the state (and
in) all ages of trees.
W: Let's talk about the Florida Citrus Commission. What were
some of the reasons for the establishment of the commission?
L: As I've already said, the industry was disorganized, there
was a lot of talk of dishonesty, [including[ the shipment of
green fruit, and general unrest. Economic conditions were
such that the industry was in bad shape. In 1935 under Gov-
ernor Dave Sholtz they laughingly said they were looking for
"twelve honest men" to organize and regulate the industry.
[They] did ultimately appoint twelve men to form the Florida
Citrus Commission. It was designed so that the grower, the
processor and the fresh fruit handler--each facet of the in-
dustry--was represented on the commission. But let me say
it wasn't immediately a panacea. However, the Florida Citrus
Commission has been a very definite boom to the citrus industry.
We wouldn't have the industry we have today without it. Basically,
it's an industry operated, do it yourself organization. For
instance, we tax ourselves through the Florida Citrus Commission
to put on an advertising program, and without that advertising
program we'd be dead. We also bond "bird dogs" and fruit
dealers within the industry. There are regulations on maturity
requirements of any citrus producing area of the world, and
we're proud of it. These are some things that have assured
the consumer of a quality product. It's largely been through
the efforts of the Florida Citrus Commission that we have
gained the consumer's confidence.
W: Let's move on now and talk about the effect of World War II
on the citrus industry. I think you mentioned some things
before but would you elaborate in more detail?
L: In my opinion World War II affected the citrus industry in
two ways. Prior to the war our industry was confined to the
selling of fresh fruit only. There was little or no processed
product. We had grown to the point that we had over production
for this single outlet. We weren't able to get rid of our
fruit at a profit. Certainly, the commission's advertising
has helped. Even so, we were rather stymied in production,
and economic conditions were bad. Then came World War II,
and we began to develop a processing industry. We were only
able to process citrus juices under the "hot pack" process,
and we put up a lot of this product. During the war the
need for citrus juices and vitamin C was great particularly
in Great Britain and all of Europe. Because of this the
government bought huge quantities of both fresh and processed
citrus, and that stimulated planting. During the war years
prices were better and our acreage started shooting up. Then
suddenly World War II ended, and by 1947 the orders for juice
In 1947 an agricultural writer by the name of Jack Murray
published a series of articles and cartoons in the Tampa Tribune
depicting the depressed conditions. The one I remember very
well was where he described Florida's citrus industry as a
pocket of depression in a pants of plenty. He went on to out-
line how we were stuck with all these producing trees and nowhere
to put the fruit. Fortunately, we had already started the
research work and learned to make frozen concentrate. Frozen
concentrate has in my opinion been the salvation of the industry.
Frozen concentrate is not the whole thing--it's the processing
of the entire fruit and the manufacture of the many citrus
products that has meant so much to the well being of the in-
W: Mr. Lawrence, I'd like to ask you how government subsidized
loans to the citrus industry affected the development of frozen
L: First, let me state that my interest in the Florida citrus
industry has been strictly on the grower level. I have not
worked extensively nor do I proclaim to have a proficiency in
the processing industry. Certainly, I'm interested in it, but
government loans or at least government backed financing has
been a godsend to agriculture at all levels. For instance,
the federal land bank of cooperatives and the federal land
bank system is very big in the Florida citrus industry. They
not only lend financial assistance, but their presence stimulated
the insurance people to come into the industry. Had the gov-
ernment not started the backing of agricultural needs, I doubt
that money would have come into the industry like it has.
Again, I point out the insurance companies have had an awful
lot of money invested in Florida citrus. The banks and local
bankers themselves have not put a tremendous amount of long
term money in it, but they have been willing to make short
term financing available. For instance, if you wanted to get
into the citrus industry and you had a decent credit rating
and the knowledge to operate, the local bank would finance you
on a short time loan, and help you find other sources of money.
So at least the money end of it has been very instrumental in
developing the industry.
W: What about the funding of the research programs during the
war and how they related to the development of the concentrate
L: Although I was on active Naval duty from 1942 to 1946, I
cannot overly emphasize the value of research to Florida
agriculture at all levels. Florida agriculture is totally
dependent on research, and it is well aware of this. There-
fore, the growers and the agribusiness community support
research and research programs. Being more explicit, I feel
that had the university not had the funds to work with, frozen
concentrate would have never been developed. Yes, very def-
initely, financial assistance has been a tremendous help to
the Florida citrus industry.
W: Would you describe the key events and the key individuals in
the development of frozen concentrate processing?
L: Actually, I haven't read the patent nor paid particular atten-
tion to it. It is my understanding that Dr. Art Stahl and
Dr. L.G. McDowell were credited with the discovery of the
frozen concentrate process, and the state of Florida was grant-
ed a patent on it. But let me hastily add that the United
States Department of Agriculture research lab at Winter Haven
and our own University of Florida research facility at Lake
Alfred have constantly worked and upgraded the process since
1947. I might add that a private corporation, Minute Maid,
came in and with the process, developed and marketed frozen
concentrate. So, even though government officials, you may
say, developed it, industry and industry money actually is
responsible for its development and marketing. And research
still goes on. For instance, following the 1962 freeze our
University of Florida Lake Alfred station taught the processors
how to process a good quality frozen orange juice from frozen
oranges. This is a great help to the growers because it en-
ables them to salvage fruit that would have been lost. I
don't mean that every orange that's frozen is going to be
processed. But if it's a sound fruit when it gets to the
processing plant, it can be processed into a good product.
W: What changes have occurred within the industry because of the
frozen concentrate processing boom?
L: It changed the industry from a struggling fresh fruit industry
selling some twenty to forty million boses of fruit annually
to a giant, producing over two hundred million ninety pound
boxes of fruit and selling it at a price that the grower can
live with. Now I don't mean Florida citrus growers are getting
rich. They have ups and downs and peaks just like all agricul-
tural people do. But basically we have an economically sound
industry and a large well organized industry that at one time
reached almost one million acres of citrus.
W: What affect has the involvement of large corporations, such
as Coca-Cola and Tropicana, had on the role of individuals
in the citrus industry, particularly the growers, the packers,
and the shippers?
L: I think each has its place--the small grower and the large
corporation. There are many many things one could say. At
one time people feared the corporation would take over and,
it's possible yet. As a matter of fact, I would say it is
very probably that all agriculture will be forced into verti-
cal integration. But this does not necessarily mean the small
grower will be wiped out. After all there are some large and
progressive corporations within the university.
W: Would you explain what you mean by vertical integration?
L: Basically, it means that one organization has the raw product
and the processing plant. In other words, they grow their
own citrus, they process their own citrus, and they market
their own citrus. If you're on the outside and not in a
vertically integrated program, you very likely won't have
the money to compete. Secondly, you don't have the outlet
to sell in. And thirdly, you could be out of luck. Now it
hasn't gotten to that point in our industry. And I want to
say quickly that had it not been for some of these corpora-
tions and some of the developments that have been carried
on by these independents, the industry would not be where it
is today. Most of them have their own research departments
and have done research for new products and better ways to
do the job. Many of them have participation plans for in-
dividual fruit growers. In other words, they may have a
cooperative plan, or they buy direct for cash. Either way,
it gives the small grower a place to operate. Then too, the
small growers are not going to be wiped out in the immediate
future because most of them are able to get into cooperatives
that could be competitive [with] corporations. I think it's
basically a very healthful situation at this time.
W: I know for instance that Minute Maid has purchased large
areas of grove land. Are they buying out the groves of the
small time grower?
L: No, I don't think so. Although they have purchased some
groves, they have also sold some. They appear to be very
stable; they have good operations; they have good management.
I can see no reason for concern in any way by anyone in the
industry relative to corporate operations.
W: I think Minute Maid has around fifteen thousand acres of
grove land, and I was just curious. I know there was a
great deal of expansion after World War II.
L: I believe they have a little more than fifteen thousand acres.
Yes, there has been some talk, and you will recall that I have
agreed that agriculture is being forced into vertical in-
tegration--but not immediately in Florida citrus. Minute
Maid came in originally and bought up individual groves over
the state. They bought a lot of groves right here, including
one of the oldest in the state--the Philadelphia grove near
McIntosh. Incidentally, it froze out in 1962 and is completely
gone. But about that same year, 1962, they developed the
Holman R. Cloud grove down near Fort Pierce. It has roughly
five hundred acres and is one of the first groves developed
on the wet soils of the state. They have also developed
another 3,000 acres down in Indian Town. But they are for-
tunately being able to sell some of their individual pieces
of property, like in Orange County where agricultural values
cannot compete with real estate values anymore. They've
been able to sell some of these pieces of property for hand-
some profits. But you [or] anybody else would do the same
thing. They're no different than anyone else in their opera-
W: How is Florida's environment particularly the climate and
soil conducive to citrus production?
L: We had alluded to this several times. Mild winters'and
supposed", and I put that in quotes right now, ample rainfall
have been the real boon to Florida. Now let's review quickly
some of these points. Florida citrus originally was planted
on the hammock, heavy, most fertile soils of the state. But
because these were in cold areas, they learned quickly to
move to the infertile soils of the ridge part of the state.
Through elevation and location around the many lakes in the
central part of the state, they were better protected from
freezes. But when they planted these soils they ran into
problems of micro-element deficiencies. Research conducted
by federal, state, and private agencies has helped to cure
most of these deficiencies. We can now grow citrus very
successfully on these sandy infertile soils. By the late
fifties we had pretty well planted all of the warm beautiful
hills in central Florida. After the big freeze of 1962 when
prices and outlook was good, growers began experimenting
with the planting of citrus on the poorly drained soils of
Central and South Florida. But with the opening of these
wet lands following the freeze, problems of draining large
areas arose. Here again, research taught growers how to
successfully manage these soils. As a result we now have a
research station at Fort Pierce called the Indian River
Field Laboratory that has forty acres on which federal and
state research people are constantly monitoring the usual
cultural practices on these soils. Research has again en-
abled Florida citrus growers to solve a most difficult and
Returning to the discussion of weather, Florida's
winters can be both conducive or very detrimental to citrus
culture. This is hard for some people to understand. We
have what we call broken winters characterized by periods of
warm sunshine followed by cold weather which in turn is
followed by more warm weather. Hence, citrus trees rarely
reach maximum dormancy. I can best explain it this way. We
may have periods of severe cold but these colds normally
come in waves and usually last only three nights. The first
night it gets very cold--low thirties and high twenties. The
next night it usually drops below twenty-six degrees. And
the third night it hopefully moderates. The "Big Freeze"
of 1894-1895 was a good example of this. In December the
trees were damaged by cold. Most leaves were knocked off,
and some twigs and small branches were killed. Then it
turned warm--seventy and eighty degree weather with plenty
of rain. This caused the trees to break dormancy and start
to grow. Then, in January 1895, about three weeks after the
December, 1894 freeze, came another freeze. Trees were
growing like it was mid-summer, and it didn't take much cold
to do an awful lot of damage. Even though we just have two
or three nights of it, it depends on what follows in the next
three to six weeks as to how well citrus will get through the
winter. These broken winters are what give us trouble.
Through research we have learned how to manage our sandy
soils and different types such as the poorly drained flatwood
soils. Even so, we still have other cultural problems. One
of the foremost is water management. Even though we have an
ample rainfall and citrus will grow in Florida without irriga-
tion, research has taught us that the use of water irrigation
at certain periods of the year will increase fruit yield of
some varieties significantly. It will also enhance or adversely
affect the interior quality of the fruit. Unfortunately,
many growers have either not gotten the word or have not
been financially able to install an irrigation system.
W: We've mentioned poor soils, freezes, and water management.
Are there any other aspects of the Florida environment which
present hazards to citrus production that you would like to
L: Yes. There are problems of air pollution that are being
studied. There's little doubt that there are problems from
impurities in the air as well as ozone and perhaps other
elements that we won't discuss, because at this time we're
not too sure of our information.
W: How do these pollutants affect the citrus tree and its fruit?
L: They may affect the citrus tree in several ways. They may
cause malcolored and malfunctioning leaves. Yield may be
reduced and very adverse conditions could kill the trees.
Here, I'm speaking on a subject on which I do not have suf-
ficient information to back me up in what I say. It would
be only an opinion and I think opinions are better left off.
W: Let's move to another problem area for citrus production in
Florida. How has urban growth particularly in Orlando since
the development of Walt Disney World affected the citrus
industry of central Florida?
L: You told me earlier that you had talked to Orange County agent
Henry Swanson and got his facts and figures on this. In my
opinion there is no better authority in the state of Florida
than Henry Swanson to give you this information. Without
Henry's facts and figures, it has affected Orange County in
several ways. Citrus acreage, production and citrus outlook
have shrunk. Prior to Disney World Orange County was the
number one citrus producing county in the state. Now Orange
County ranks third and will likely drop still more. Urban-
ization and encroachment has definitely affected Orange County's
citrus. In most instances it has taken only small groves
and perhaps groves not in prime condition. In Osceola County
for instance, taxes on some groves shot up to prohibitive
levels. Orange County people, in my opinion, have done a
tremendously good job on land use planning and developing.
They're doing everything they can to save the western half
of the county. The western strip of the county is such a
beautiful citrus producing area in the lake and hills just
north of and adjacent to Disney World. And they know that
the minute they cement that land over or pave it with asphalt
they have lost a great contributor to the re-charge of the
aquifer of the state of Florida. I sincerely hope they will
manage to keep that area open and growing citrus for many
W: You own citrus land down in Orange County near Disney World.
Has the presence of Disney World affected your property value?
L: Oh yes. I have one small grove of forty-five acres near
Disney World that was very adversely affected. I won't give
you a figure, but at one time the annual taxes on the grove
were about four times greater than the total income of the
grove. That has since been straightened out. They're operat-
ing at a tax level to where agriculture can hopefully stay in
business. For your information our family still has the
citrus property intact we bought in 1917 in Orange County.
W: Would you explain what green belt laws are?
L: Green belt laws are such that some people think they're
totally unfair. But if one stopped to realize that without
agriculture he does not eat, he would favor them. If you're
having to pay $10,000 to $20,000 a year in taxes, because
the real estate value of that land my warrant it, you have
an impossible condition for agriculture. This is certainly
true in Dade County where they are growing avacados, mangoes,
and winter vegetables on land which may have a real estate
value of as much as $40,000 or more an acre. If they had no
green belt law, ad valorum taxes would drive agriculture out.
If you drive it out, it's going to drive the cost of groceries
up and make some of them totally unavailable. The green belt
law is a law that favors agriculture to the extent that it
is taxed at a rate that will allow the farmer to make a small
profit on that land he farms. Certainly, one can find iso-
lated cases where people are fake farming. They have a few
cows, a garden, or something of an agricultural nature on a
piece of property and are actually holding it to sell for a
large price. I think you'll find there are not too many
flagrant examples of the green belt law. If it were not for
the green belt law agriculture could not exist in many areas
of our state.
W: Then the green belt law is a tax on what the land is actually
used for, not what it could be potentially used for.
L: Right. It's taxed on its agricultural potential rather than
its real estate value.
W: What effect has urban growth had on the Indian River citrus
L: Believe it or not all that area is about normal. It hasn't
affected their citrus acreage appreciably. Let me explain by
saying NASA took in something like thirty-two hundred acres
of citrus groves when the space station was built. But they
immediately leased those groves back to the growers. The
growers have been operating them and paying the government a
very fair rental on that property and have kept the groves in
good condition. However, I now understand that all the NASA
land has recently been turned over to the United States Wild-
life Department. They're reportedly anxious to close down
all the citrus groves completely. Should they close them
down and not renew the growers leases, there are 3,200 acres
of citrus that's going back to woods and swamp. But you asked
why hasn't the Indian River citrus acreage shrunk in spite of
the population increase. It is simply because the Indian
River area from south Volusia County to mid Palm Beach County--
not just Cape Canaveral--was pioneered only as low wetland
hammock soil. Since 1962, as I have already pointed out, we
have moved into these wetlands. Actually, we've been moving
inland from the Indian River and developing new citrus acreage.
St. Lucie County is probably the second largest citrus county
in acreage in the state. It may have exceeded Lake and
Orange Counties by now, because this is an area of recent large
planting expansion. They've taken many cattle ranches and
open prairie lands to the west of Fort Pierce and developed
them into citrus lands. And it's doing well.
W: And a major reason for that has been the research that's been
done and the improved use of these lands?
L: (Yes), plus the financing we talked about. People have been
able to get large amounts of money to develop large plots.
Originally, new citrus plantings were thought in terms of
twenty and forty acre tracts. So, availability of capital,
heavy equipment, such as drag lines and dozers, and technical
knowledge has been largely responsible.
W: We've talked about the improvement in fertilizers and the minor
elements spray programs before. Would you sum up the major
scientific discoveries which have improved citrus cultivation
L: That's really a job isn't it? As you pointed out earlier,
I worked for the Florida Agricultural Extension Service.
This service, working with grower advisory committees
throughout the counties, has been able to get research
applied in the citrus groves of this state practically
before the research worker got the answers. So, figurative-
ly, the grower has been looking over the researcher's
shoulder through the leadership of the extension service.
Now I'm biased, and I'm probably laying it on a little
heavy because our growers have a tremendous amount of in-
itiative themselves. There are other people working in the
area, too. What I wish to point out is that the Florida
citrus grower is, in my opinion, the best educated farmer
in the world. Many are lawyers, doctors, merchants, and so
forth. Instead of doing the work themselves, they hire
college-trained citrus production managers to manage their
operation for them. So we have professionally trained
people who work hand in glove with federal, state, and
private research agencies and big companies.
Many big chemical companies try to assist the Florida
citrus industry. However, most companies do not go
directly to individual growers and try to get them to apply
a product unless our Florida based research stations first
find that it is satisfactory. Then the extension service,
in cooperation with the appropriate research worker (or with
his approval), the company, and the grower, put out plots
throughout the state to demonstrate the use of the product.
In this regard our extension people have developed what we
call the Florida Economical Citrus Production Guide. In
this we point out the amounts, the time of application, and
the rate to area. There are sections on irrigation, insect
and disease control, cultivation, and record keeping. If
the grower will study these things, which are constantly
available to him, he has every possible help to enable him
to have a successful operation. I might add that not every-
body in the state uses this Economical Production Guide pro-
gram. A lot of people use it that don't realize they use
it because they receive it in news letters and publications
such as industry magazines, television, and radio that carry
this information. There are also grower institutes and
meetings. For example, we used to have seven citrus in-
stitutes a year in the state. These meetings lasted from
one day to three days at a time. The research people came
before the grower and told of his research findings and how
to use them. In recent years because transportation is
better the number has been reduced. Currently, there are
three of these meetings every year, plus the state horticul-
tural society meeting where scientific papers are presented
and the proceedings printed. To me these are the big things
and the ways of getting research applied.
Coming back to diseases, fertilization, and things like
this, certainly the eradication of canker, the development
of micronutrients, the use of lime and Ph control were
important; but the development of agricultural equipment was
also important. Most agricultural equipment started as grower
innovation. The reason was that the Florida citrus industry
is so small that a national manufacturer couldn't afford to
come in and develop a special piece of equipment just for
Florida sales. But if the grower gets the idea and takes it
to a Florida manufacturer, somebody like Mr. Linder down here
at Winter Haven or Hoyle Pounds of Winter Garden can take the
idea and develop it into something. Some of these grower
developments and equipment certainly go nationwide. I mention-
ed speed sprayer, which is an air blast machine. The first
air blast sprayer in the state of Florida was developed in
Orange County. But they're now sold all over the world. These
are the improvements other than fertilizers and spray materials
that have come along. These to me are the real contributions
that have made the industry.
W: I have just one final question. I'd like to ask you how you
view the future of citrus in Florida?
L: Well, you can't talk to me this long without knowing I'm bullish.
I think it has a very, very good future. I think it is going
to continue in a healthy manner. Our acreage may shrink some,
but I think as long as there are people, they are going to drink
orange juice and use citrus products. [However,] Central and
South American countries are going into citrus even more heavily.
If we favor these countries, and let them import their products
into the United States, certainly our industry is going to
shrink. This would be a very definite mistake. We can hastily
point to the automobile industry. Out manufacturers apparently
didn't think a small car was needed. All these years the
people have been buying small cars, and the management of big
companies have stubbornly held to the fact that they want to
produce luxury cars. As a result the car manufacturers are
in bad shape. This same thing can happen to the citrus. There've
been several attempts already to take all the import barriers
off and let anybody ship citrus in that wants. If this happens,
our industry's gone. But as long as we can maintain any kind
of control over imports, the Florida citrus industry is not
going to be a fabulously wealthy venture for someone, but it's
going to be healthy and rewarding, both physically and finan-
cially. This is my feeling.
W: Well, I want to thank you very much for the interview. I
just want to tell you that in exchange for the interview,
you'll receive a transcript of the tape, and you'll be able
to check the transcript for any possible errors or for clari-
fication of any point. Also, you'll be able to restrict any
portion of the tape for a period of time left to your discretion.
But thanks again. It's been a real pleasure talking with you.
L: Thank you, Paul. I appreciate it.