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Umatilla Fruit Company, Umatilla, Florida

Sign sponsored by the family of Barney Dillard, Jr. 

The Umatilla Fruit Company was incorporated in 1920 by Umatilla residents C.J. Turner, H.A. Wilson and W.L. Yancey.  Barney Dillard, Jr. of Umatilla acquired the Wilson and Yancey interests in 1924.  The company grew citrus and operated packingouses in Umatilla, Sorrento, Payola and Zellwood, shipping fruit under the ‘RED WARRIOR’, ‘DOLLY’, and ‘DIXIE’ labels. The company also operated several retail fruit stores in the New England area.  W.B. Calhoun acquired the company in 1947 and operated the packinghouse in Umatilla until 1964 when it was purchased by the General Services Administration as a site for the Umatilla Post Office.  The company continued to produce fruit for the concentrate and fresh markets until the freezes of the 80’s.

Helen Guenther Scott, North Lake Outpost, October 2004

As noted by Ms. Scott Barney Dillard acquired interest in Umatilla Fruit Company.  Mr. Dillard was a remarkable gentleman that was involved in many citrus ventures in Lake County.  He was certainly one of the leading growers/packers for many years.  This is a brief story of Mr. Dillard provided by his family.  Barney was a colorful and key part of citrus in Lake County for many years.

Among the young men of Lake County who have made a name for themselves in the citrus industry is Barney Dillard, Jr., who was born in Volusia County on September 6th, 1891, son of Barney and Alice Dillard.  His father was one of the pioneer settlers of Florida, having come to this State in 1868, settling first at Salt Springs in Marion County, and later moving to Volusia County at Volusia Landing on the St. Johns River, where he has since lived, and engaged in growing oranges.  His is the father of fifteen children, nine boys and six girls, all still living.
Barney, Junior, was brought up on his father’s farm and attended school at Astor, which is across the river from Volusia Landing, in Lake County.  He left his home place at the age of eighteen to accept a traveling position for a fruit commission firm, and in this connection he traveled practically every State in the Union, as well as Cuba and the West Indies.

Mr. Dillard entered the fruit business for himself about twelve years ago, buying and selling orange groves, also buying and shipping citrus fruits.  He bought a 32-acre citrus grove at Eustis in 1917 and moved there from Volusia County.  Mr. Dillard has made Eustis his residence since that time.  The public records will show that Barney, Jr., has bought and sold more citrus groves than any individual in Lake County since 1917.
It is believed that the firms of which Barney, Jr., has been at the head have shipped more citrus fruit out of Lake County since 1920 than any other company or firm in the county.  Mr. Dillard owned a half interest in the Richardson & Dillard Fruit Company for two years, then purchased the entire interest.  He later sold R. D. Keene a half interest and incorporated the fruit business in the name of Dillard & Keene Company and was its President for two years.  He then purchased an interest in The Umatilla Fruit Company, of Umatilla, Florida, and was elected its President and has continued to serve as such for the past five years.  After becoming interested in The Umatilla Fruit Company, Mr. Dillard sold his interest in the Dillard & Keene Company of Eustis to Mr. R. D. Keene.
The Umatilla Fruit Company is one of the most important concerns of its kind in Lake County.  Besides owning several hundred acres of bearing groves, it cares for about seven hundred additional acres for others.  The company also finances growers, acts as packers, shippers, and brokers.  As an indication of its size, about one thousand cars of fruit are shipped each season from its three packing plants located at Umatilla, Sorrento, and Paola.
Mr. Dillard’s career shows what can be done by a person in Florida with limited capital but with a determination to succeed, and with a thorough knowledge of the business in which he is engaged, as he left home with a eighteen dollars in his pocket and in less than twenty years is rated as one of the largest citrus growers and shippers of the State of Florida.

He is a member of the Masons and Shriners and of the Christian Church.

He was married at Altoona to Talula Agnes Wainwright and has six children: Emory W., Murrell J., Arlie A., Barney E., Vera J., and Garard M. Dillard.

from: History of Lake County Florida, Wm. T. Kennedy, Editor-in-chief,  History of Lake County Florida Part II, Biographical.  Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens of Lake County, Florida  p192
For more information on Barney Dillard, Jr.

Other Umatilla Fruit Company 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 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.

Other Packing Houses in the City
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Umatilla Citrus Growers Association
Golden Gem Growers
Bill Collins
James Scobie
Mike Graham
Bill and Elmer Austin
Jack Allen
Paul Bryan
Sunsational Citrus


To learn more about Lake County citrus click here

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