By Brenda Eubanks Burnette
In the July 15, 1933 issue of the Florida Clearing House News, an article by the Committee of Fifty titled “To Fit Demand to Production – ADVERTISE” caught my eye. Advertising has always been the tennis ball in the citrus industry’s battle over how much is enough and whether generic advertising really helps.
The Committee of Fifty was comprised of the leading growers and shippers of that era who helped shape the industry into what it is today. Many of those early leaders are now in the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame.
The article was written in response to the Agricultural Adjustment Act that was enacted through federal legislation during the New Deal era to boost agricultural prices by reducing surpluses, thus helping return the country to normalcy. At the time, the young Florida Citrus Growers’ Clearing House Association had been advertising fresh Florida citrus in various popular publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, which had a circulation of over 3 million readers. Other outlets included The American Weekly, Time, and Life Magazine — to name just a few. This article was a call for support from the growers to continue such advertising.
The article stated: “The sensible thing, of course, is to persuade Uncle Sam’s huge family to eat more Florida citrus fruit and this can only be done by carrying to them through advertising and publicity the story of the delicious quality and health-giving virtues of the oranges, grapefruit and tangerines produced in this state.”
It went on to note that “The law of supply and demand will always govern the value of any product. The manufacturer can adjust his production of manufactured products to meet the demand, but the citrus grower of Florida must increase the demand to meet the production, over which he has very little control; and demand for any product, grown or manufactured, may most cheaply and effectively be increased by advertising.”
This debate has raged throughout the years and still takes place today, along with the need for maintaining a reliable, high-quality grade of fruit which the article noted with these closing remarks:
“Whether you believe it or not, whether you like it or not, the fact remains that the citrus growers of Florida every year lose millions of dollars in return for citrus through failure to invest a reasonable sum in advertising. Of course, advertising alone will not accomplish the job. We must send, to meet the demand created by the advertising, only such fruit as will prove the truth of the advertising done. The cull piles must in future be kept in Florida. So it is the firm conviction of the Committee of Fifty that the old quatrain should be parodied and become —
Early to bed, early to rise;
Dump the culls, and advertise.”
Now that’s a quatrain to frame!
Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.