Crop Comeback

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A major crop, destroyed by a winter storm, is making a comeback thanks to some local farmers.

A Florida Panhandle co-op finds growing Satsuma oranges so appealing.

The Satsuma orange was once a celebrated fruit. Back in 1929 it had its own festival that attracted 35,000 people including Florida’s governor.

However, a freeze in the early 1930's wiped out the crop and farmers decided to stop planting it.

Over the years, with a farm bill that became less rewarding and the development of new technologies, farmers had a change of heart.

New information from the University of Florida planted a seed of hope.

“They explained to us the future of commodity crops didn't look good; they thought they would be gone in the future, we would have mega farms, large farms that created a product marketed worldwide and for their survival we created a niche farm,” explains Mack Glass, Cherokee Satsuma Coop.

Florida's citrus regulations are tough. Before anyone steps foot in an orchard they must undergo a thorough spraying of c-soap. This helps prevent transmission of the canker pathogen which can leave lesions on the fruit. Northern Florida’s climate is perfect for the Satsuma.

Part of what makes this fruit so appealing for farmers to grow is that it needs cold temperatures to sweeten the fruit and warm temperatures to set the blooms.

When the thermometer dips below freezing a micro jet located in the middle of the trees sprays water on them. It then freezes into a protective coating of ice, until the temperatures rise to a safe 37 degrees.

So far, farmers have marketed the fruit through different fund raising organizations, but they're looking to branch out.

“We're also looking for brokers and fruit distributors and chain type grocery stores,” says Glass.

Farmers are hoping that this sweet, seedless, low acid fruit with its clean zipper peel will soon be cropping up in markets all over the U.S.
“I have four grand-kids that love to peel and eat them and it's a great fruit. It gives Jackson County the potential to have an alternative crop,” says Glass.

If you would like more information about the Satsuma orange, you can contact Mack Glass at 850-573-0885.