The late F. Gilbert Bowen of Winter Haven and the late A.G. Smith of Wauchula will join the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame as the Class of 2023 inductees. They will be inducted posthumously in March 2024, along with the Class of 2024 inductees.
For more than seven decades, Bowen (1928–2022) was a leader in his family’s operations as well as in the Florida citrus industry. His father worked as a grove caretaker. By the age of 12, Bowen was working in the groves, grafting trees and performing other jobs. He and his brother eventually formed Bowen Brothers, Inc., initially operating as fruit brokers, later adding a harvesting and groves division. Bowen traveled worldwide to keep abreast of new innovations in the citrus industry and shared that knowledge with others.
Bowen helped countless growers and others in the industry. He funded research which brought low-volume microirrigation to Florida. He participated in many research projects with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Those projects included dealing with budwood development for the Rhode Red Valencia orange and working toward finding HLB-resistant trees.
He served on the FFA board for 22 years, donating time and money to support the Florida FFA Leadership Training Center and many FFA fundraising projects. Those efforts earned him an Honorary American FFA Degree.
In addition to being CEO of Bowen Brothers, he served as a consultant to Bowen Juices International and KMC Citrus Enterprises, Inc.
Smith (1862–1942) was born in Alabama during the Civil War and was instrumental in the early growth of the Florida citrus industry, primarily in what was then DeSoto County. He came to Florida in 1886 as a station agent with Florida Southern Railroad (later the Atlantic Coastline Railroad). He acquired thousands of acres, including orange groves and much of what became downtown Wauchula. He was one of the oldest growers and shippers of citrus in Florida.
In 1888, Smith was the first grower to ship citrus via railroad from Wauchula, building his first packinghouse there in 1896. He eventually had two packinghouses with 22 employees.
Smith was one of the founding fathers of Wauchula and was elected a Wauchula alderman upon the city’s incorporation in 1902. He established the Bank of Wauchula in 1907 for citrus growers, serving as president and then on the board of directors. He was chair of the committee formed to divide DeSoto County into five counties: Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee and Highlands.
In 1909, Smith and 49 others traveled to California to study citrus cooperative marketing and growing methods in that state. The trip resulted in the establishment of the Florida Citrus Exchange. He served as one of the first directors of the Wauchula Branch of the Florida Citrus Exchange. He successfully lobbied for better roads to reduce shipping costs for Florida citrus and other agricultural crops.
Source: Florida Citrus Hall of Fame
Share this Post