Larry Black is a fifth generation grower raising what he hopes is generation number six.
FT. MEADE, Fla. – For Larry Black, growing citrus is a family tradition.
Black, 41, follows in the footsteps of four generations of Florida Citrus growers before him. And, generation number six isn’t far behind.
“It’s really exciting to take my children to work with me and to give them fun experiences in the grove,” Black said. “They’re very young right now, but I’d love for them to carry on the citrus growing tradition that my family has had for so many generations.”
Nearly 100 years ago, Black’s great grandfather helped found the Peace River Packing Company in Ft. Meade, Fla. Today, Black manages the same company, which is still located alongside the railroad tracks in the heart of this small town.
While the company focused on fresh citrus back in 1928, it now includes the harvesting of oranges destined to become 100% Florida Orange Juice. With more than 2,000 acres of groves in Central Florida, the company also ships fresh oranges, grapefruit and tangerines north along the Eastern seaboard.
“It feels good to be able to carry on that family legacy,” Black said. “And there’s similar examples of families in Florida Citrus around the state that have been doing this for generations.”
In Florida, citrus is a big deal, Black said. In 2012, the economic impact of the industry was valued at nearly $10.7 billion and accounted for more than 62,000 jobs.
“Many people think of Florida as beaches and Disney World,” Black said. “But, there’s a healthy agricultural economy running through the center of the state.”
During peak season, Black’s company employs about 185 people – a major boost for the local economy.
To keep the industry strong, Growers like Black are always looking for ways to innovate.
“Just during my career, the growing of citrus has evolved quite a bit,” Black said. “We’re becoming better farmers each year through research and innovation in the groves to be efficient and responsible to the environment.”
And, while any career in agriculture has its challenges – from dealing with freezing temperatures to hurricanes – the end product is worth the struggle, Black said.
“Orange Juice is packed with nutrients and is delicious,” he said. “It feels good to be able to provide such a wholesome product.”