Ellis, Sparks, Robinson to Join Citrus Hall of Fame

Ernie NeffCitrus

Jim Ellis of Bartow, Mike Sparks of Apollo Beach and the late T. Ralph Robinson will be inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame on March 10 at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.


Ellis has been a grower, packer, industry representative and historian. He currently works for the Division of Fruit and Vegetables in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. As general manager of Lake Garfield Packing, he introduced the first electronic sorter to Florida and experimented with other new technology. Ellis served on and was president of numerous agricultural boards. He has one of the largest collections of Florida citrus crate labels in the world; it is the nucleus for the Florida Citrus Label Digital Collection at Florida Southern College.


Sparks has been executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual for the past 10 years. Under his leadership, Mutual has secured unprecedented funding benefiting the Florida citrus industry, including $125 million in mandatory Farm Bill funding directed primarily at citrus greening research. Sparks previously worked 29 years in senior management positions at the Florida Department of Citrus, including stints as deputy executive director and interim executive director.


Robinson (1876-1967) was a New York native who moved to Florida in 1910. He worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in plant physiology on the development of new citrus varieties, managing test plantings in 25 sections of the state. Robinson was primarily responsible for the commercial production of Orlando and Minneola tangelos, and the Robinson tangerine was named for him because of his expert work in citrus breeding.

The March 10 induction luncheon ceremony will occur at 11:30 a.m. in Florida Southern College’s Hollis Wellness Center. See www.FloridaCitrusHallofFame.com for ticket reservations and other information or contact Brenda Eubanks Burnette at BBurne1003@aol.com or 561-351-4314.

The induction ceremony will be followed by the Florida Citrus Processors Association’s OJ “Meet and Greet” with the inductees in the McKay Archives Center at Florida Southern College. Tours of the Citrus Archives will be provided by Florida Citrus Hall of Fame Fellowship students on the day of the event. Shuttles will provide transportation between the Hollis Wellness Center and the McKay Archives Center, where the main parking lot is located.

Share this Post

About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large