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Orange Belt Packing, Co. Eustis, FL
Sign sponsored by Lake County Historical Society

In appreciation of Lake County Citrus Industry

Orange Belt Packing goes back to the late 20’s.  It seems leaders of this organization were thinking ahead!  A 1930 publication, Georgia Experiment Station Circular 89, reports on the Fruit Freezing Conference held at the Georgia Experiment Station.  Attendees were from all over the United States.  Seems University of Georgia was a leading university in the study of freezing fruits and vegetables at that time.  Noted on the list of those attending the conference were two representatives from Orange Belt Packing Company in Eustis, FL.  W.W. Ballscom and C.V. Griffin (noted at Secretary/Treasurer).  Seems Orange Belt was checking out a processed product – frozen citrus juice!
The December 1929 edition of the Florida Citrus Growers Clearing House Association has Orange Belt Packing Association listed at one of the 63 shipper members.  There were 7 houses in Lake County that were members.  The ‘Association’ noted 10,000 grower members!  They claimed to represent 80% of the Florida Citrus Industry.  This organization was established to stabilize the market and require packer members to ship quality fruit.  During this period there were no governmental regulations in place to prevent the shipment of immature fruit.

In another document Orange Belt Packing Company appears in a 1933 legal dispute with C.A. Vaughn and Fisher W. Hannum listed as representatives of the company.  Seems a “clerical error” took place.  Unfortunately, this error cost Orange Belt the sum of $12,210.54!

It should be noted that in 1938-39 fruit season the packing house shipping the largest number of cartons of citrus from Lake County was the Vaughn Griffin facility in Howey. Peggy Beucher Clark notes in her book ‘Images of Howey in the Hills’ that William J. Howey enlisted Mr. Griffin to build a packing facility in Howey.   In 1938 Mr. Howey died and C.V. inherited his company and assumed the debt.  It looks like Mr. Griffin and Mr. Vaughn moved from Orange Belt Packing to establish a large facility of their own in Howey in the Hills.

Other Orange Belt Packing Association Labels
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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 cannot 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 cannot be beat for taste.

To learn more about Lake County citrus click here

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