“The local market has improved since last season,” says citrus grower Chip Henry. “I’ve gained customers, and existing ones are buying more. When people know the fruit is being harvested, they seek out that local supply and want to support their local farmers.”
Henry grows 12 acres of organic Valencias at McGuire Groves in Apopka, Florida, and sells his fruit primarily to local fresh markets.
He attributes the uptick in sales to several factors. These include continued strong interest in organic and locally grown produce, consumers seeking the health benefits of citrus, and what he calls “a revival of consumerism” as things begin to return to normal since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
PRICES, QUANTITY AND QUALITY
With strong consumer interest in his organic oranges, Henry has taken the opportunity to raise his prices an average of 10% this season. He has been selling his fruit for about $22 per bushel box.
Henry is happy with both the orange quantity and quality this season. He says Brix is over 13, and pound solids are in the vicinity of 7. “The high quality is similar to the last two seasons, but the crop is bigger this year. I’m expecting my yield to be up approximately 20%,” he says.
THE ROLE OF RAIN
“Our area has been blessed with an overabundance of rainfall,” says Henry. “The bloom was late, and the rain arrived at the ideal time to set the new crop.”
He says the rain this season also played a part in preventing freeze damage. “Amazingly, there was virtually no damage to my mature trees” from the January freeze that impacted many citrus-growing regions in Florida. While temperatures dipped as low as 22 degrees in Henry’s grove, the cold did not last long enough to cause damage. “The ground was saturated with moisture from the rain at the time of the freeze,” explains Henry. “Radiant heat kept the soil warmer.”
While it is too early to predict how his 2022–23 crop will play out, Henry currently sees a “healthy new crop coming on with good fruit set and good potential yield.”
However, he is concerned about the possibility of drought. “Rainfall has been sparse (less than half an inch) at McGuire Groves from April 15 to May 9), and near record-high temperatures have occurred recently. If this trend persists, the volume of the new crop on the trees may be negatively impacted.”
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