Around 2016, Georgia had around 21,000 citrus trees. Since then, that number has more than doubled. More cold tolerant varieties and better growing practices are making the industry more viable in Georgia.
Joe Franklin owns Franklin’s Citrus Farm in Statesboro. He planted 200 trees in 2010 and now he has 5,000 planted in fields that once grew corn, cotton and peanuts. “I’ve probably got about 2,000 trees in production and right now. I’m selling all I can produce,” Franklin said. “There’s a huge market out there all up and down the east coast of the U.S.”
Many of Franklin’s trees produce Satsuma Mandarins. He describes the fruit as similar to a tangerine: juicy, seedless, and sweet as well as low in acid. The variety is a good choice for Georgia because it tends to be more tolerant of cold weather.
A disease called “Citrus greening” is killing trees in Florida; this means more Georgia farmers are growing and harvesting citrus. Citrus greening is caused by a bacterium spread by an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid, which -luckily for the Georgia growers- has not made it that far north yet.