Florida Farmer Takes Fresh Approach To Growing Citrus

Chuck Allison of Spring Valley Farms inspects a young citrus tree
Chuck Allison took the dive into citrus, planting 100 acres in 2012.
Photo by Frank Giles

Planting a new block of citrus in the era of HLB is not a decision to be taken lightly. And, heading into the endeavor without a lot of citrus experience makes the choice even more daunting.

But Chuck Allison, Owner of Spring Valley Farms near Umatilla, saw opportunity with the crop and took the plunge into citrus. Allison had raised cattle and hay on his property since 2004, and in 2008, planted blueberries on his farm as that market was heating up, followed by citrus in 2012.

Prior to farming, he had worked at Duda Farm Fresh Foods as a Manager of Business Analysis and then another 23 years for Prudential, working his way up to National Director for Agricultural Investments for the company. He says working with both companies taught him the value of building a great team of employees and learning from other successful farms.

“Working with a family like the Dudas, I got to learn about their morals and good business practices,” he says. “And, working with Prudential, I got to see all facets of agriculture. Both were wonderful experiences and helped teach me how successful farmers operate all over the country.”

Allison put that knowledge to work when he planted blueberries. He established a marketing relationship with Wish Farms a couple years after the planting and built a packing facility on the farm.

“Wish Farms does an excellent job with blueberry marketing due to their year-round presence and customer profile,” Allison says. “We have expanded the packinghouse to pack our own berries and other local growers.”

Tasty Tangos

With a few years of blueberry growing under his belt, Allison decided to investigate planting citrus. He began asking questions about managing citrus in the midst of HLB from growers and researchers. He investigated which varieties would provide the best economic returns. He zeroed in on ‘Tango,’ ‘Early Pride,’ and navels. “Tango” comprises most of the 100 acres. It is an easy-peel, seedless mandarin.

“Through my work with Prudential, I was able to see what California growers had been doing with ‘Cuties’ and ‘Halos’ and how profitable the tangerines and clementines had been,” Allison says. “The ‘Tango’ is a high-value, fantastic piece of fruit.”

Tango citrus fruit peeled
The ‘Tango’ has superior interior quality and brix.
Photo by Frank Giles

Allison says ‘Halos’ and ‘Cuties’ have established a strong market and consumer demand and will help pave the way for an East Coast easy-peel, seedless mandarin. And, market windows don’t overlap too much, giving room for success. Most California fruit comes in after January. Chile fruit comes in ahead of Florida.

“If we can hit the October through December window when there is not a large volume of mandarins on the worldwide market, Florida has an opportunity to find a spot in that window, if we can find the right varieties,” he says.

Beyond the market window, Allison also likes the earliness of ‘Tango’ because his planting is so far north (right on the southern edge of the Ocala National Forest). ‘Tangos’ will come off the trees before the coldest months of winter. One challenge with the variety is it doesn’t color up well. He hopes being further north will provide the necessary chill hours to color the fruit in the November and December timeframe.

“The consumer wants something they can consume easily — something the kids in the backseat of the car can easily peel and eat,” Allison says. “Think about Florida fruit, which has much better internal quality, brix, and flavor when compared to California.

“If we can find the right varieties, the right fruit for consumer demand, and the right market window, we will have something special. That is why the FAST TRACK program to establish these varieties is so critical.”

Peter Chaires, Executive Director of the New Varieties Development & Management Corp. (NVDMC) says Allison is finding success with these high-value specialty varieties.

“Chuck is always current on the latest information on rootstocks and rootstock/scion combinations, as well as horticultural practices,” Chaires says. “He’s methodically innovative, which is a rare combination.

“Chuck also is registered to plant several of the most promising experimental FAST TRACK fresh citrus selections, made available through a cooperative program between NVDMC, UF/IFAS, and Florida Foundation Seed Producers Inc. If any of these selections prove commercially viable, he will be in a position for rapid expansion and early market penetration. Despite the many positive advances on the disease front, we have fewer growers every week with the resources to replant. It is tremendously beneficial to have growers like Chuck who are feeding supply while helping to identify the varieties that will help jumpstart Florida’s citrus recovery.”

Topics: , , ,

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “Florida Farmer Takes Fresh Approach To Growing Citrus

  1. Congratulations to Vesna and Chuck for developing a beautiful and productive Florida farm.
    Their patience and fortitude is admirable. I wish them much success in the years ahead.

  2. It’s the most beautiful blueberry farm I’ve ever seen. You can see the care they take with the place! They’ve planted trees all along the road and the farm is breath taking. I particularly love the fact that this family really cares about their workers.

Citrus Stories
Citrus display survey
Varieties & Rootstocks
September 22, 2017
Take Time to Survey the Latest Florida Citrus Varieties
The calendar is full of display day opportunities to learn, see, and do. Read More
Handfuls of Florida hops
Citrus
September 22, 2017
When it Comes to Growing, Florida Farmers Never Say Never
Let's raise a toast to the bold producers and researchers who are taking our industry beyond previously perceived crop viability boundaries to places once figured forbidden. Read More
Citrus
September 21, 2017
Hurricane Relief Fund Launched for Florida Farmworkers
Money raised will benefit Redlands Christian Migrant Association’s efforts to aid families in need. Read More
Citrus
September 19, 2017
Precision in Specialty Crops Gains Momentum
Here are some of the key drivers that may transform your farm in the years ahead. Read More
Neo 1 hops at UF/IFAS MREC
Citrus
September 19, 2017
Hopes High for Hops Fresh From Florida
When it comes to alternative crop solutions, something good is brewing in the Sunshine State. Do you have what it takes to tap in? Read More
Winter melon damage from Hurricane Irma in Elkton, FL
Citrus
September 15, 2017
Help Extended to Hurricane-Weary Farmers Dealing With Disaster
USDA chief grants extra time and special procedures to document and file claims. Read More
raindrops in standing water
Citrus
September 13, 2017
New Guidance on FSMA Ag Water Compliance, Water Testing, and Farm Inspections Announced
FDA issued a rule to extend compliance dates for agricultural water and announced a start date for farm inspections. Read More
Packinghouse damage from Irma at SWFREC in Immokalee
Citrus
September 13, 2017
Florida Farmers Digging out From Impacts of Irma
Damage reports starting to flood in from the field following monster storm, and it's not pretty. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 11, 2017
The Grower’s Take: Citrus, HLB, and Biological Control
Uncle Matt’s Organic orange juice brand has enjoyed steady growth since its 2002 inception. The brand’s success is due to Read More
Citrus
September 7, 2017
Summer News Stories that Have Growers Talking
Farming has been in the media spotlight this year. I asked each of this month’s columnists and contributors for their Read More
Citrus
September 7, 2017
Whose Sustainable Standard Wins?
Retailers’ race to win the most sustainable produce prize leaves growers trying to keep up with fast-developing demands. Read More
Citrus
September 7, 2017
Improving Water Management: Can Silicon Valley Help?
Though very much-needed, technological solutions must be cost-effective and industry appropriate. Read More
Florida oranges
Citrus
August 31, 2017
Extra Early Florida Citrus Forecast Calling For Sunshine
Marked increase in production predicted for the next crop of oranges. Read More
Citrus
August 30, 2017
How Harvey May Impact Specialty Crop Growers
The devastating human toll from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey has rightly dominated news coverage. Growers and those who work with them, however, should also think about how this historic storm will also affect them.  Read More
Insect & Disease Update
August 28, 2017
California Extends Citrus Quarantine
A 94-square mile area of San Bernardino, Riverside counties now a part of state huanglongbing quarantine. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
September 23, 2017
Family Citrus Farmers Face Tough Times […
Dealing with a deadly disease is tough enough without extreme pressures from retailer/customers. Read More
Citrus
September 22, 2017
Water Management Concerns Flowing in Flo…
Efforts mounted and executed to move gallons by the ton to protect property. Read More
Citrus
September 22, 2017
When it Comes to Growing, Florida Farmer…
Let's raise a toast to the bold producers and researchers who are taking our industry beyond previously perceived crop viability boundaries to places once figured forbidden. Read More
Citrus
September 21, 2017
Hurricane Relief Fund Launched for Flori…
Money raised will benefit Redlands Christian Migrant Association’s efforts to aid families in need. Read More
Citrus
September 19, 2017
Precision in Specialty Crops Gains Momen…
Here are some of the key drivers that may transform your farm in the years ahead. Read More
Citrus
September 19, 2017
Hopes High for Hops Fresh From Florida
When it comes to alternative crop solutions, something good is brewing in the Sunshine State. Do you have what it takes to tap in? Read More
Citrus
September 15, 2017
Help Extended to Hurricane-Weary Farmers…
USDA chief grants extra time and special procedures to document and file claims. Read More
Citrus
September 13, 2017
New Guidance on FSMA Ag Water Compliance…
FDA issued a rule to extend compliance dates for agricultural water and announced a start date for farm inspections. Read More
Citrus
September 13, 2017
Florida Farmers Digging out From Impacts…
Damage reports starting to flood in from the field following monster storm, and it's not pretty. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 11, 2017
The Grower’s Take: Citrus, HLB, and Biol…
Uncle Matt’s Organic orange juice brand has enjoyed steady growth since its 2002 inception. The brand’s success is due to Read More
Citrus
September 7, 2017
Summer News Stories that Have Growers Ta…
Farming has been in the media spotlight this year. I asked each of this month’s columnists and contributors for their Read More
Citrus
September 7, 2017
Whose Sustainable Standard Wins?
Retailers’ race to win the most sustainable produce prize leaves growers trying to keep up with fast-developing demands. Read More
Citrus
September 7, 2017
Improving Water Management: Can Silicon …
Though very much-needed, technological solutions must be cost-effective and industry appropriate. Read More
Citrus
August 31, 2017
Extra Early Florida Citrus Forecast Call…
Marked increase in production predicted for the next crop of oranges. Read More
Citrus
August 30, 2017
How Harvey May Impact Specialty Crop Gro…
The devastating human toll from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey has rightly dominated news coverage. Growers and those who work with them, however, should also think about how this historic storm will also affect them.  Read More
Citrus
August 28, 2017
Specialty Crop Concern Feeds Need to Neg…
Although trade talk objectives may not deliver the short-term relief for Florida fruit and vegetable growers, they appear on the right track. Read More
Citrus
August 28, 2017
3 More Florida Growers Given Green Light…
Once exclusive enterprise continues to expand for more seeking to engage alternative crop endeavor. Read More
Citrus
August 27, 2017
USDA Releases Software to Help Small Ope…
While the free tool was primarily designed for use by small firms, any size manufacturer can opt to use it. Read More