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The story of a dynamic industry that dominated Lake County for more than 125 years
Peter Micheloni arrived in Groveland from Italy by way of Chicago! What a wonderful story about a young man that immigrated to our country in 1919. Peter was born near the city of Venice in 1902. He at age 17 and his two sisters Elvira, age 12, and Linda, age 11, were sponsored by their uncle Frank Toso to come to this country. Peter started a wholesale grocery store operation.
Peter and his wife Lucille owned 4 ‘grocery’ stores in the Chicago area. These were not the typical supermarkets we know today. People actually ordered the food they wanted and it was delivered to the customer’s home by young men. Peter Micheloni would travel to different areas in the mid-west and Florida to obtain produce for their stores. He made frequent trips to Florida. Their customers were aware of the general operation for they knew the produce was of high quality because it was purchased by Peter for their stores.
Peter’s trip to Groveland started when a customer asked if Peter would use his produce truck to transport the customer’s son’s furniture to the Groveland Hotel which the son had purchased. The deal was made and soon the produce truck became a moving van headed to Groveland. Peter saw the opportunity to get involved in citrus and decided to move to Groveland in the fall of 1940.
Peter started out leasing a citrus packing house in Groveland located at the southeast corner of Hwy 50 and 33. Like so many other hard-working families, Peter started small. After a few years he was able to obtain a few acres of grove. Then he purchased the packing house and its volume grew. The citrus acreage also grew. He invested all profit back into the business. He then sold the Groveland packing house to build a larger and more modern packing house in Mascotte. He was a sound investment manager. He did not assume large amount of debt.
Like all the other packing houses, Peter had several labels for the fruit he shipped. Jane Micheloni Geraci, Peter’s oldest daughter, remembers packing many a box of Lake County citrus at the family facility. The Pine Island label was their primary one and the most frequent label used on fruit from the Micheloni packing. Other Micheloni labels house were Lake County, Groveland, and Richland. The source of the label is from the Florida Southern College and University of Florida web sites. They scanned the label from the collection of Jerry Chicone (grower in Lake and Orange County) and Jim Ellis.
So this is the story of the Pine Island citrus label. It is a story of a hardworking and savvy family that was able to establish themselves in the citrus industry. In so doing they provided employment for a number of people in the Groveland area and enhanced the economy. Like the entire citrus industry, the Micheloni family was part of a dynamic entity that was the economic backbone of Lake County for many years.
Other Micheloni Labels
Label from Micheloni Grove Fruit Packing Co.
Sign sponsored by Micheloni/Geraci family
In appreciation to all employees and growers
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.
The Packing House(s)
Peter Micheloni’s first packing house was located in Groveland, SE corner of Hwy 50 and State Road 33. He leased this house and built a facility in Mascotte.
To learn more about Lake County citrus click here
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