Citrus Achievement Award Winner Proud To Pass Along Family Tradition

Citrus Achievement Award Winner Proud To Pass Along Family Tradition

The 2015 Florida Grower® magazine Citrus Achievement AwardSM Winner Orie Lee describes himself as a lifelong learner. His curiosity and collaboration with plant breeders has resulted in some of the more popular rootstocks and varieties in the industry. Lee has taken on the role of teacher as he prepares to pass the reins to his granddaughter-in-law Karen Lee. Karen had no background in citrus production but is learning fast and is excited to carry on the family tradition.

Orie Lee stands with his granddaughter-in-law Karen Lee. Photo by Frank Giles

Orie Lee stands with his granddaughter-in-law Karen Lee.
Photo by Frank Giles

“Learning from Orie is an amazing experience,” Karen says. “His vast knowledge and years of experience make him the most valuable resource and asset anyone could ask for. He’s battled more pests, diseases, variety challenges, hurricanes, and freezes than some of us may encounter in our career.

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“As he’ll tell you, some battles he has won and some he has lost, but he’s managed to be successful and continue farming despite some of the losses. In the face of HLB, he’s teaching me that we can no longer rely on simply doing things the way that we’ve always done then. We must be more aware of what’s going on in the grove and be prepared to address it armed with knowledge based on current proven research, an analyzing mind, and keen business sense.”

Karen adds that having Orie’s more than 80 years of experience growing citrus is valuable in today’s modern age.

“I think having a mentor like Orie is such an incredible benefit and probably the most useful teaching tool,” she says. “A different generation provides a completely different perspective on ideas. While the research today is critical to continuing the state’s signature crop, nothing tops experience. The value of having someone who can tell you what they’ve tried and why, as well as how it worked, or why it may not have worked, is priceless.”

Is Karen happy she chose growing citrus as her profession and learning the trade from her “grandpa?”

“My favorite part about growing citrus is that it’s constantly changing and there’s so much to learn,” she says. “In this computer-based age, I think the perception of farming to the general public is such a dated concept, that I relish the complexities and sharing with those I come in contact with how challenging farming is.”

Special thanks to Arysta LifeScience for sponsoring the Citrus Achievement Award.