Citrus- especially orange is an integral part of Florida’s identity. Read on to know some interesting facts on how it has become an international symbol of the state…
Since the mid-1800s, Citrus has been farmed commercially in Florida groves. The first citrus was introduced to the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1493. In the mid-1500s, one of the early Spanish explorers planted the first orange trees around St. Augustine, Florida.
Florida boasts of sandy soil and a lovely subtropical climate, perfect for growing the seeds that the early settlers planted and have flourished. At present, it is a $9 billion industry with 76,000 Floridians employees. Oranges, speciality fruits like tangerines, tangelos, Temple oranges and grapefruits are grown. In most seasons, more than 90% of America’s orange juice is made from Florida-grown oranges. About 87% of Florida citrus is processed into canned, chilled or frozen concentrated juices.
In Florida, there are around 569,000 acres of citrus groves and over 74 million citrus trees. Most citrus is grown in the southern two-thirds of the Florida peninsula.
Workers handpick the fruits carefully, put it in canvas bags and place it into specialized vehicles known as ‘goats’ that bring the harvested fruit from the grove to tractor-trailers. Citrus meant for fresh consumption is sent to packinghouses where it is washed, graded and packed while the Citrus produced for juice is transported in trucks to the processing plants.
In Florida, there are around 40 citrus packinghouses and 20 citrus processing plants. The growing, packing, processing, and selling of citrus generates a nearly $9 billion per year impact on Florida’s economy. The citrus industry generates $1 billion in tax revenues to support highways, schools, and healthcare services.
What’s more? Citrus is great for Florida’s environment. A modern grove design provides an excellent wildlife habitat and serves as a natural buffer between farmlands and urban development. University of Florida researchers have observed more than 159 native species of wildlife within the grove ecosystem. Research shows that for every acre of mature trees, 16.7 tons of oxygen is produced per year. Isn’t that awesome? Several citrus advertisements and historical associations regarding the state acknowledge the link between orange, improved health and Florida. Isn’t it extraordinary how a fruit is entwined with a place?