Southern Gardens Citrus hosted industry, local and state political leaders at a dedication luncheon and tour Wednesday for its new citrus nursery facility in Gilchrist County in north central Florida. In the first report below, U. S. Sugar Vice President Robert Coker (left in photo) discusses when the facility will deliver its first seedlings. In the second report, U S Sugar President/CEO Bob Buker (right) discusses the company’s decision to heavily invest in the future of Southern Gardens and Florida’s citrus industry.
CLEWISTON, FL â€” August 29, 2007 â€“- Southern Gardens Citrus proudly announced the grand opening of its new state-of-the-art citrus greenhouse nursery in Trenton, Florida. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson as well as state and local representatives attended.
(in photo, Southern Gardens Citrus Nursery Manager Jim Dilley (l) and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson)
â€œAs our citrus business continues to grow, this citrus nursery will provide clean and disease free nursery stock for planting in our citrus groves,â€ said Robert Coker, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs.
â€œThis investment emphasizes the importance of and commitment toward our citrus business,â€ Coker added. â€œThese trees allow us to replant lost acreage due to past and present disease issues and ensure that there is a supply of disease-free trees available as needed to provide premium quality citrus to our juice processing facility.â€
Construction began on the 80-acre citrus nursery located approximately 30 miles west of Gainesville, Florida in December, 2006. Phase I is complete and will provide 200,000 early/mid and Valencia orange trees scheduled for planting in Southern Gardensâ€™ groves in May-June 2008. Phase II is scheduled for completion in Spring of 2009, resulting in 135,000 sq. ft. under cover and production capacity of 400,000 trees. Further expansion will occur as required.
â€œOnce the Southern Gardens groves are replanted, we may be in a position to sell nursery trees to other Florida growers,â€ said Coker.
Coker said that Southern Gardens selected the Gilchrist County site because it was well north of previous citrus growing regions. The newly opened citrus nursery was built to meet new state regulations requiring all citrus nurseries to operate indoors with extensive environmental controls, such as double-door entries and air filtration systems that protect the plants from possible airborne bacteria and pests outside.
â€œHaving a supply of fruit controlled by the company in conjunction with grower contracts will further ensure our commitment to our customers to satisfy their demands for juice,â€ Coker said.
Coker said the impetus for building the state-of-the art citrus nursery was disease that swept Floridaâ€™s existing citrus nurseries. Citrus canker spread throughout Floridaâ€™s citrus industry following the hurricanes of 2004-05, and Southern Gardens lost 4500 acres of citrus trees. The company continues to conduct quarterly inspections of its groves for disease and deal pro-actively with both canker and greening.
Southern Gardens Citrus encompasses both 16,500 acres of citrus groves and the nation’s most technologically advanced citrus processing and packaging plant. The Southern Gardens citrus plant processes approximately 20 million boxes of oranges, producing more than 120 million gallons of primarily not-from-concentrate (NFC) premium quality orange juice annually. Using state-of-the-art technology and assuring consistently high quality juice, Southern Gardens supplies more than 50% of the nation’s private label NFC orange juice.