In the Grove & On the Record - John Allen
This edition’s profile features John Allen, a Duette grower who also works for Carlton & Carlton.
After serving his country in the military, Allen worked a while for Badcock Furniture before ending up where he always wanted to be – in citrus.
Triangle: What is your job title and description?
Allen: Senior Tractor Driver. My job description is to do it all. I was on a bulldozer yesterday and at a SWFWMD meeting the day before that.
Triangle: Can you give me some background on the company you work for?
Allen: I personally have 32 acres of groves. I bought it in 1984. There were 10 acres of tangelos and at the time Tom Thayer owned the grove next door. He was pushing some trees, and I brought them over one at a time and planted those with my wife. Then she wanted to plant some early golds, so we got on the early gold bandwagon and planted six acres of those.
I also work for Carlton & Carlton. It’s more of a family than a company. I technically work for Dennis Carlton, but if any of the family told me to move a mountain, then mountain watch out! They have 1,000 acres in Hillsborough, Manatee and Hardee counties.
Triangle: Have you always been in citrus or have you worked in other industries?
Allen: I spent some time in the military, and then I spent some time with a little furniture store there in Mulberry named Badcock. But that wasn’t where I wanted to be. Nothing wrong with Badcock, but citrus is where I’ve always wanted to be.
Triangle: Where are you from?
Allen: From a little community called Pine Crest . I’m from there, went to elementary and high school there.
Triangle: Is you family in the citrus industry?
_Allen: There are four generations of citrus men and women buried down the road, I make the fifth. Before that there wasn’t much citrus in Florida, only hog thieves and my family did a bunch of that!*
Triangle: Who or what were the key influences in your life related to your involvement in the citrus industry?
Allen: My father and my uncles. One Uncle is still alive, in his 90s and still in citrus. The rest have gone on to a better place.
Triangle: What is your first memory in or related to the groves?
Allen: Reset orange trees begin to grow out and leaves will touch the ground. Santa Claus brought me a pocket knife for my 5th Christmas and my duty was to cut those resets back so they grew up nice and bushy and not down to the ground. That’s as early as I can remember in the groves.
Triangle: what do you find the most challenging about being in the Florida citrus industry?
Allen: Change. Right now there is a major change taking place and we have no idea what it’s going to be. There’s change in several avenues – transportation, weather, disease – especially disease. There is no telling what is coming across our borders as we speak.
Triangle: What should people who aren’t in agriculture know about citrus and farming in general?
Allen: It has to make a few stops before it gets to Publix. And when you buy it at Winn-Dixie or Sweetbay, it’s the safest food in the world.
Triangle: What do you think will change about the Florida citrus industry in the next five years?
Allen: I have a pretty serious fear that production will drop to the point that we won’t be able to support all of our juice plants. I hope I’m wrong.
Triangle: If you weren’t in citrus, what would you be doing instead?
Allen: I’d be down on the Manatee River catching stumpknockers.
Triangle: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced – either work or personal?
Allen: Giving up nicotine. That was a chore. This month makes ten years.
Triangle: How serious do you think greening is?
Allen: It’s the most serious problem we are or ever have faced. We have two choices – either get a handle on it, or grow blueberries!
Triangle: What technology or practices are your company currently implementing in the fight against greening?
Allen: We are doing five or six sprays a year. We’ve got our own trained people – a small entourage, four of which have pesticide licenses – looking for greening. And we employ Holly Chamberlain’s company twice a year.
Triangle: How did the recent freeze affect your company?
Allen: We lost a couple of power units and where we lost power we had damage. And even where we didn’t lose power, in spots that don’t have enough water we got blistered.
Triangle: Why do you believe it’s important to be a member of Florida Citrus Mutual?
Allen: As an individual grower I can do very little in Washington, but Mutual is comfortable and effective doing my bidding there. I think it’s the best money a citrus grower can spend.
Triangle: What can Mutual do better?
Allen: Increase the size of my Triangle and fill it full of the stuff Mutual sees every day that we don’t. And I don’t want it online! I want to be able to sit in my chair with my coffee and read it!