In the Grove and On the Record - Justin Sorrells
This edition’s profile features Justin Sorrells of Arcadia. As President/CEO of DeSoto Fruit and Harvesting, Sorrells oversees the daily harvesting and fruit hauling operations. He also serves as a fruit buyer for Sorrells Citrus.
Triangle: What is your job title and description?
_Sorrells: President, CEO of DeSoto Fruit and Harvesting- oversee the daily harvesting and fruit hauling operations. Fruit buyer for Sorrells Citrus.
Triangle: Can you give me some background on the company you work for?
Sorrells: Sorrells Bros. Packing Co. was started in the early 1940’s by my grandfather and his brothers for the purpose of transporting fresh tangerines from Arcadia, FL to Atlanta, GA. They eventually purchased a packinghouse in Arcadia and started packing fresh citrus. Over the years our family purchased groves and continued harvesting and packing fruit. In the late 1970’s my father returned to Arcadia to work for the family business and started a grove care operation under the Sorrells name. He grew the harvesting operation and continued to expand the groves. Currently we own 5,000 acres of citrus.
Short version: I work for a company that owns, operates, harvests, care takes, and hauls 5,000 acres of family owned citrus products. We also buy, market, harvest, and haul other grove owners’ citrus products.
Triangle: Have you always been in citrus or have you worked in other industries?
Sorrells: I have always been in citrus. I started working in the groves when I was 13 years old.
Triangle: Where are you from?
Sorrells: Arcadia, FL
Triangle: Is your family in the citrus industry?
Sorrells: Since the 1940’s
Triangle: Who or what were the key influences in your life related to your involvement in the citrus industry?
Sorrells: My dad has been my biggest influence. Growing up I admired his work ethic and motivation. I am now able to work with my dad on a daily basis and can learn from his many experiences and earned success.
Triangle: What is your first memory in or related to the groves?
Sorrells: I was very young and my sister, mother and father and I were out on a Sunday afternoon riding through the groves in my father’s Thunderbird (I think), and we got stuck in sugar sand. That is my first memory of the groves and of sugar sand.
Triangle: What do you find the most challenging about being in the Florida citrus industry?
Sorrells: The most challenging aspect of working in the citrus industry is trying to stay ahead of the curve. Things are moving so fast when it comes to grove care operations and pest control, which makes it difficult to always stay on top of the newest methods and products. Keeping up with the most cutting edge management practices and ensuring that the steps you are taking are garnering success makes the citrus industry very competitive.
Triangle: What should people who aren’t in agriculture know about citrus and farming in general?
Sorrells: That food is not made in Publix or Winn Dixie. Also, farmers don’t work a traditional 9-5 job. Our workload is depicted mostly by the weather and when our crops are ready for harvest.
Triangle: What do you think will change about the Florida citrus industry in the next five years?
Sorrells: I believe we will see our industry consolidate. Growers will band together and cooperate to ensure added success.
Triangle: If you weren’t in citrus, what would you be doing instead?
Sorrells: I have always been interested in politics; I think I would have tried to work in a field related to politics.
Triangle: What other organizations are you involved in?
Sorrells: I am the President of the Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association. Also, I am the coordinator for the Upward sport programs at the First Baptist Church in Arcadia.
Triangle: Why is it so important for Mutual and regional industry associations to work together? How can they best serve the growers together?
Sorrells: Mutual is a great representative for industry growers on a state and federal level. Their effort and time is better suited for focusing on large scale movements in the citrus industry. Mutual represents the industry to ensure that one voice is heard on the behalf of the industry. Our regional association’s aid the growers with specific and local priorities. Not every growing region faces the same challenges, so we need regional associations to concentrate on issues specific to that region. They also keep the growers informed and quickly get information to growers concerning all issues in the industry. By working together the grower gets a very focused and specialized ally working for them at two different levels.
Triangle: Why do you believe it is important to be a member of Florida Citrus Mutual?
Sorrells: Mutual protects the grower. They are here to see that the growers are well represented in Tallahassee and Washington and offer aid to growers to help facilitate success. Mutual makes it possible for the concerns of the Florida citrus industry to be heard as one unified voice and they represent Florida citrus growers in a positive light, working together for the betterment of the citrus industry.