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Family farmer puts his grove to the torch as citrus greening wipes him out

Citrus greening wipes out yet another family farm.

Frank Green’s 100-acre grove in Alva, a family operation since 1890, has torn out one-third of its citrus groves and is burning the trees.

Nearby, Joe English has destroyed 200 acres of his citrus groves, which the family has been farming for 100 years, and plans to destroy the remaining 75 because of citrus greening. The English family has farmed the area since the 1870s.

“Green expects to lose the rest of his producing land within five years,” Green told the News-Press.

“Greening has devastated the state’s citrus crops, leaving growers reeling. Not only have annual yields steadily dropped, but 59% of Florida’s citrus jobs have disappeared in the last 10 years. The industry has taken an estimated $2 billion hit, according to the University of Florida.”

“This past season was kind of a tipping point for us,” English said. With Hamlin oranges down from 7,000 to 2,000 boxes a block, “We just felt like we couldn’t keep up the production costs on it and make ends meet. The production costs just keep going up, and the income stays the same,” he said.

“Florida citrus has a had a 50-year-long sunset, and we are seeing the absolute last faint glimmer of twilight,” said Jeff McCullers of Estero. “A few moments from now, the glow will finally fade away.”

“We’re not the only ones in this pickle here,” said Green. “A lot of growers are in this situation.”