by Marty Proctor

Sweet-smelling citrus blossoms and ripening fruit are making a comeback in Groveland.  New trees are being planted on the west side of SR 19 from Cherry Lake Road (CR478) north to the backyards of Wynn Drive homeowners in Groveland.  Cherrylake is planting more citrus here in Lake County.  “While many companies are exiting the Florida citrus industry in recent years, IMG Citrus (Cherrylake’s sister company) believes that the future of Florida citrus can and will be bright,” stated Chloe Gentry company co-owner.  The farm is cooperatively operating the citrus grove as a joint venture between IMG CItrus and Cherrylake two divisions of the family business IMG Enterprises.

The trees are a low seeded mandarin that matures from mid-December to January.  The variety is tolerant to HLB known as citrus greening.  The trees are also grown close together at 8 feet apart in rows separated by 18 feet.  This allows almost triple the number of trees per acre on the 31 planted acres compared to historical planting densities yet allowing maintenance and pruning vehicles to pass between the rows.

There is a lot of science that goes into successful farming, especially citrus.  The farm starts with building up the soil with compost coupled with the application of bacteria and fungi to build up the soil for healthy root establishment.  The irrigation is totally automated operating more frequently and for less time.  This minimizes the water consumed while providing better utilization by the trees.  Finally, a very specific newly developed tree, a Tango mandarin grafted to Swingle rootstock is planted.  Brian Randolph, Director of Grove Production provided these details about the grove. All this work means that in the near future, we can go to our local grocery stores and buy the Happy Food brand of mandarins and truly join the farm to table trend that is sweeping the food industry.

“The Florida soils and climate can produce some of the juiciest and sweetest citrus in the world”,  added Chloe.  “We want to continue to delight consumers with the special treat of Florida citrus.”  Cherrylake and IMG have been growing citrus here in Lake County starting 40 years ago when citrus groves covered most of the land currently operated as a tree farm.  The new Florida easy-peel mandarin varieties are also more cold tolerant which has become more important here in Lake County.  The chilling hours we receive in Groveland are actually favorable because they help the skin of the fruit gain a brighter orange coloring.  “The appeal of the Sunshine State” opined Syndeny Allison, Director of Sales includes “a healthy winter fruit that is full of vitamin C.  Florida citrus counters both the flu and cold season.” That may be true but the wonderful smell of citrus blossoms in the spring and the sight of ripening fruit hanging on healthy citrus trees are welcome reminders for long time Lake County residents. Beyond blossoms, fruit, shrubs, palms, and trees, Cherrylake will be inviting friends and families to enjoy the outdoors.

On February 8, 2020, Cherrylake will be hosting its 4th annual Farm Race.  The 5K, 10K, or duathlon allows the racers to experience a unique tree-lined course.  Race proceeds will be allocated to a local non-profit and a tree will be planted in a protected conservation area honoring each participant highlighting the community and sustainability company values.

Marty Proctor and his side-kick Hoover

Marty Proctor is a writer for the South Lake Tablet covering Groveland and the surrounding area.

His primary interests are the local impact of city and county government, local growth management, tracking area charitable groups and sharing factual information.

Marty is a long time resident on Lake Emma north of Groveland doing public information consulting, social media marketing and freelance writing as well as fishing, bowling, and caring for wife Julie and dachshund Georgia.