Hardee County, Florida

Florida citrus growers know what it takes to survive in a tough industry

Finally, some Florida citrus growers are starting to see an increase of orange production. Those who managed to stick around as the greening disease ravaged their groves have been experimenting with different variations of trees, expensive chemicals and fertilizers.

The Durrance family grove is in the middle of the state. Danny Durrance was born and raised in this grove that his great grandfather started in the 1800s with just four acres. At their peak, they had about 250 acres, but the citrus greening disease has cut this family’s production in half.

His son, Ian, said the family had to lean on other farm sales to sustain the citrus business. "If we wouldn’t have had our cattle and our hay, we would’ve had to push up all our grove.”

But now, like other growers in the state, things are improving. They’re planting new trees that are more resilient to greening. Ian has also been experimenting with better insecticides and fertilizers.

"My son's got a citrus degree from Florida Southern," Danny said. "And when he got to college age I told him, I says, ‘Ian, why do you want a citrus degree? You were born and raised in an orange grove. You’ve been in an orange grove your whole life.’ Well, it's very good that he did that because that is really helping us.'"

Durrance said some neighbors have recently sold their groves to developers because of these insects. In fact, nearly 92,000 acres of planted citrus are gone compared to a decade ago, but this family has no plans to sell.

According to news.wjct.org¸ just 30 percent of the growers from 10 years ago are still fighting to stay in the industry.

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