The GenNext Growers initiative is celebrating a landmark in 2018. This year marks the fifth since the program — geared for future farming leaders — was officially launched. From the beginning, Justin Sorrells of DeSoto Fruit & Harvesting and Sorrells Citrus Inc. in Arcadia has provided valuable feedback as an advisory board member.
Justin and his family have been in the citrus business since 1940. Much of what he’s learned has been ingrained. However, evolving factors in farming can change one’s perspective. We decided to learn how Justin and his operation have adjusted to the ebbs and flows of farm life in recent times, and what’s next.
What are the biggest challenges facing GenNext Growers today?
Justin: For me, in the citrus industry, it’s labor. Having a reliable, consistent, productive, and legal workforce is a must to carry on business today. With ever-changing regulations and rising costs, maintaining a workforce has to be a daily thought. We need a workforce to not only harvest the crops, but also to grow the crop. Without that workforce, it is becoming more and more challenging to stay in business. As we move forward, the first question we always have to ask is do we have the manpower to complete the task, and are we staying compliant with all the rules and regulations to do so.
What opportunities are GenNext Growers missing out on?
Justin: I will always believe we are missing out on new information — and not because it is not available, but because there is so much out there that it is hard to keep up. There are always new studies; always new and better ways to grow our product; and always new information to apply to our businesses. We live in an ever-ready information age, and trying to stay on top of everything all the while carrying out daily operations is something I struggle with and have to remain vigilant to make staying educated a top priority.
Compared to five years ago, how has your perspective changed on important issues and the future?
Justin: I am not sure my perspective has changed, maybe just a little wiser. There is a sliding scale on important issues. What seems important one day may not be quite as important a year later. I hope I can learn from every experience and take that knowledge and apply it the next time or to the next issue and hopefully I see it from a different angle and make the best decision possible for the future of my business.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned on the farm in the last five years?
Justin: To never give up. Things in this industry change quickly and often. There are challenges at every turn, and we must learn how to adjust. But most importantly is to not give up; always battle; stay in the fight; and learn from every experience to make yourself better.