Visiting Southern Gardens Citrus

Abbey TaylorCitrus

Last week, members of the AgNet Media team had the opportunity to visit the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) to meet with some of the area’s key players. During the three-day tour, the team explored various agricultural operations, including Southern Gardens Citrus.

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The Southern Gardens Citrus visit began with a tour of Devil’s Garden Grove, led by grove manager Luke Davis. The team explored plots of different density plantings of Hamlins and Valencias, as the company continues to try different ideas in its ongoing research about growing citrus in the face of HLB. The team saw blocks of Valencias that were 25 years old and still thriving, despite issues with HLB.

Davis explained the steps his crew has taken in avoiding citrus canker by planting eucalyptus windbreaks around the perimeter of the grove, as well as having workers and visitors go through a sanitation process before entering the grove.

Davis also discussed the grove’s damage following Hurricane Irma, where several feet of rainwater flowed after the storm in some blocks. The eucalyptus trees were tilted due to the high-speed winds from the hurricane. Little black balls on the ground surrounding trees in the grove were the remains of rotted fruit that had been ripped off the trees in the hurricane. This damage evidence made it much easier to see and understand the extent of fruit loss in this particular area that took a severe hit from Irma.

Following the grove tour, the team visited Southern Gardens’ modern juice processing plant. The facility undergoes annual upgrades and continues to install the latest technologies in the industry. A division of U.S. Sugar, Southern Gardens Citrus continues to be a leader in the battle to find answers to HLB and looks forward to being a key part in driving the revival of Florida’s citrus industry.

This processing plant part of the tour was led by Jim Snively, vice president of grove operations. Like so many operations in agriculture today, there were restrictions on photographs in the processing plant. However, having the opportunity to see and feel what happens in a facility like this was a treat and the perfect way to end a great week on the road.

Snively showed how every part of the orange is used, including what is left after juicing. After removing all the byproduct, what is left is processed into cattle feed, which is made up of mostly orange peel with a few twigs or other materials mixed in.

Snively noted the importance of the last step of the plant process, in that if something happened at the last step to halt the waste coming out of the citrus plant, the entire operation behind it would have to be stopped until things were working and back on line.

The AgNet team visited other operations in the Everglades Agricultural Area as well, including sugar and vegetable farms. See more from those visits here.

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Abbey Taylor