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The story of a dynamic industry that dominated Lake County for more than 125 years
DOLLY – BUSY BEE – RAINBOW – SEALD SWEET
Label from H. Jennings Rou
Sign sponsored by the Rou Family
Born in Leesburg, Florida in 1935, Jennings is proud to be a third generation Floridian. Citrus has been part of his life since his early years spending time in his grandparents’ groves in Weirsdale. The Rous moved to Tavares where his father took the position of Supervising Principal of Tavares schools, a post he held for 24 years. Jennings graduated from Tavares High School and attended the University of Florida. He enlisted in the Air Force, serving two and a half years in England. Upon Honorable discharge, he attended Florida Southern College on the GI Bill. While at Florida Southern College he was a member of The Citrus Club and is a member of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. He received his degree in Business and Citrus Horticulture in 1960. He was one of eight members of his family to graduate from Florida Southern College. Jennings entered the citrus business in 1962 working or his father-in-law, Leslie R. Huffstetler, Sr, working as a fruit buyer and in sales. When Huffstetler retired, Rou purchased the business.
H. Jennings Rou, Inc. was formed in 1966, and offered a complete line of citrus services: production, harvesting, hauling and packing for fresh fruit through his packing house in Eustis. In production Jennings took care of over 2,000 acres of groves.
Fruit not going to fresh markets was harvested and hauled to various plants, but mostly to Florida Orange Marketers, which he served as a Director for 27 years, President, 1988-1991, Chairman of the Board and Chairman Emeritus. Florida Orange Marketers, the grower arm of Coca Cola Foods Division, has consistently been one of the most progressive and profitable marketers of round oranges. During his tenure the organization expanded statewide. Through his leadership as President, during the devastating 1989 freeze period, FOM was able to return to pre-freeze volume. In harvesting and hauling he pioneered the use of pallet bins and mechanical harvesting equipment and the use of diesel in high lifts and road tractors, reducing repair and fuel costs resulting in savings to the company and the grower.
In his Fresh Fruit Operation, he handled fruit throughout the state. He was very hands on from the grove to the grading belt to the packing line, overseeing the quality until the final product. When the New York Auction was still in operation, his Rainbow Brand tangerines and tangelos repeatedly topped the market, with fruit being placed in gift baskets at the Waldorf Astoria. He was very active in Florida Citrus Packers as a director from 1977 to 1998, particularly in areas of quality control, and was influential in establishing the Self Inspection Program for packinghouses. Through the Citrus Packers and Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, he was instrumental in investigating false claims on delivery of fresh shipments, resulting in arrests of unscrupulous inspectors saving Florida growers thousands of dollars in false claims. Besides, Rainbow and Rainbow Gold, he packed under Busy Bee, Florida’s Best and Dolly. Rou’s Dolly label features a picture of his first child Jennifer, now Mrs. Jennifer Woodbury of Orlando, FL.
Although Rou made many contributions the most important contribution of his career in the Citrus Industry was his leadership in many areas during and after the devastating 1980’s freezes. The industry had never been threatened like this before, especially in our region. Rou dedicated himself to help by providing optimism during this time of survival and economic uncertainty. He did this in his personal business and through Florida Orange Marketers, Florida Citrus Packers, and Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association and as President of the Lake-Orange Extension Advisory Committee during the years of 1985-1987. His experience, encouragement and stabilizing influence helped growers in Lake, Orange and surrounding counties recover from these disastrous events.
Labels from H. Jennings Rou
View the Jerry Chicone collection
View the Jim Ellis collection
Most packers had several labels they could use. The primary color of the label indicated the grade of the citrus in the box. Blue was US #1, the best quality from the packer. Red was US #2, a step down and occasionally another color was used for fruit not making US#1 or US #2. It should be noted that almost all the Florida fruit that did not meet US#1 standard was due to external appearance. The internal quality was the same! Florida conditions, namely a hot wet summer, produced a large number of pests that would damage the surface of the fruit. The primary one is very small mite, specifically the rust mite. This pest can produce a dark brown or russet blemish on the surface of the fruit. Several fungal organisms also can cause damage to the peal. Melanose produces small raised spots producing a fine “sand paper’ feel. When heavy these lesions can cover a large portion of the fruit surface as well. Windy conditions during spring when the fruit are small cause surface damage as well (this is known as wind scar – the small fruit would rub against leaves producing a superficial blemish to the peel).
Florida growers have to deal with these superficial blemishes because the consumer is looking for a perfect looking piece of fruit. Sugar content can not be determined by looking the fruit, so don’t be quick to decide that if an orange is not perfect on the outside that does not mean it will not taste good. Florida citrus might not be the prettiest in the bin, but they can not be beat for taste.
To learn more about Lake County citrus click here
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