Numerous former employees of Lake Region Packing Association (LRPA) and their families and citrus industry associates attended a Jan. 7 meeting in Tavares to launch a digital book about the association. The meeting was hosted by former Extension agent John Jackson, who worked in Tavares and knew many association grower members and employees for decades.
Speakers included Jackson; the book’s primary author Dan Tracy, a former Orlando Sentinel reporter; grower Ray Kemp; former LRPA general manager John Veldhuis and former LRPA chairman of the board Bob Battaglia. Veldhuis also prepared a barbecue lunch for the group.
The book reports that the association was established in Tavares in 1909, the same year that other citrus cooperatives were formed in Clermont, Haines City, Umatilla and Winter Haven. The Florida Citrus Exchange was also formed that year.
Veldhuis joined LRPA in 1971, overseeing harvesting, and was general manager from 1994 until the association closed in 2022. He spent most of two years returning about $5.76 million in equity to more than 400 active or retired grower members of the association or their descendants, according to the book. The money was available because the association owned property debt free, including the 10-acre packinghouse operation on Lake Dora.
The book describes itself as an “ever-evolving” online publication that tells the LRPA story. It is a collection of accounts, views and insights. The first chapter was written by Tracy.
The second chapter, written by Jackson, provides his observations on many aspects of the organization, including its people, impact, activities and role in the citrus industry. “It was not uncommon to have two or even three generations working for the cooperative,” he wrote. “It was really one big family.”
“The rest of the book will be written by those that wish to contribute to the story,” states an introduction to the book.
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