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The story of a dynamic industry that dominated Lake County for more than 125 years
GEM OF THE HILLS
Clermont Citrus Growers Association, Clermont, Florida
Sign sponsored by Clermont Citrus Growers in the Clermont area (Rex McPherson, Fred Saunders, Benny McLean, Buddy Oswalt, Charlie Russ and Sean Parks).
In appreciation for all those involved in the citrus industry
The Clermont Citrus Growers Association, a member of the Florida Citrus Exchange, had been organized in 1909. The members shipped their fruit by rail to Tavares for packing. In 1922 they built their own packing house at a cost of $8,800. A. O. Todd was the contractor. The location was between Second and East Avenues between the railroad tracks and the highway. (This is now Bell Ceramics.) The A.C.L. and Tavares & Gulf Railroads both built sidings to serve the new packing house. Thomas C. Shupe was hired as the first manager. While all members of the Exchange could market their fruit under the “Seald Sweet” trademark, the Clermont brands were “Gem the Hills” and “Minnehaha”.
In 1943 Ro-E-Gaines purchased the packinghouse. Clermont Citrus Growers was in receivership. Seems the association was not able to survive the depression or some other issues must have developed. Not able to determine why the association collapsed.
The 1938-1939 fresh fruit shipments show a total of 31,457,082 boxes shipped from Florida. Lake County had 4,140,749 of them for 12% of the state’s total. The largest shipper in Lake County was Vaughn-Griffin in Howey with 506,438 boxes or 12% of Lake County’s total. Clermont Citrus Growers Association was not listed. There were 40 packinghouses in Lake County in 1938-1939. Clermont Citrus Growers Association must have shut the doors prior to the 1938-39 season.
Ro-E-Gaines, the packer that purchased Clermont Citrus Growers kept the Lake Minnehaha label, however they made a slight change! The lady is younger and the groves on the lake are gone. You can check out the new label on the other side of this sign.
Other Clermont Citrus Growers Association Labels
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 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.
The Packing House
To learn more about Lake County citrus click here
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