Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando's Boyett's Grove is a throwback that still ships holiday fruit

SPRING LAKE

The clack of the conveyer system resonates through the work area where Kathy Oleson busily sorts through a pile of freshly washed red grapefruit. The ancient machine, purchased during the 1940s by her grandparents, provides a constant soundtrack during her December work days at Boyett's Grove and Citrus Attraction.

This time of year, Oleson, her family and the seasonal workers hired to help process and ship fruit from the storied grove in eastern Hernando County are in top gear as they try to meet the crush of holiday demand. It's not unusual for them to put in 14 hours — and ship more than 250 boxes of fruit — per day.

Oleson, 57, who has been involved in the business pretty much all her life, has few complaints.

"I guess I suppose I could say that I wish I was younger," Oleson said with a laugh as she took a break last week from her duties. "There is a certain amount of redundancy to it, but I still very much enjoy it because it's been so much a part of my life and my family."

Indeed, Boyett's Grove is a throwback to the era, a few decades ago, when Hernando County was dotted with dozens of flourishing citrus groves. But the industry has been in decline since the 1980s. The ravaging effects of freezes, diseases and pests have caused many growers to abandon the industry. In fact, state statistics show that the total acreage of citrus grown in Pasco and Hernando has fallen from 8,532 to 7,840 the past three years.

Oleson, however, remains a believer. She and her husband, Jim, raise the largest variety of commercially grown citrus in Hernando. About two-thirds of their 100 acres are planted with varieties of grapefruit, navel oranges, tangerines, tangelos and limes. She credits this year's abundant crop to favorable weather and the maturing of new trees that replaced aging ones that were susceptible to diseases. These include citrus canker and a more devastating recent threat known as citrus greening, an insect-borne bacteria that attacks and kills citrus.

Oleson said that many of the varieties of oranges at Boyett's were grown on newer root stocks that are more disease-resistant but less tolerant to sub-freezing weather.

"The citrus business has always been risky, and there are limits to what you can do to protect your crop," Oleson said. "You can never have too much luck."

The shipping of fresh fruit follows the growing season, so it's always a race to get the fruit delivered at the peak of its ripeness. Each piece of hand-picked citrus is inspected for flaws, then washed in an anti-bacterial solution and dried before it is packed. The vast majority of Oleson's customers reside in northern states, so the company contracts with the Florida Gift Fruit Shippers Association, a low-cost shipper.

For the next two weeks Oleson's days — and evenings — will be devoted to packing sweet holiday treats for customers. And although the holiday itself brings a brief period of rest, the operation will be in full swing again in January when the first Honeybell oranges, kumquats and other specialty fruit will ripen.

As much as people think that Boyett's Groves is strictly a seasonally oriented business, Oleson likes to point out that the spring and summer months are just as active with pruning, planting and fertilizing of the grove.

"We never get much down time," Oleson offered. "But it's a business that suits us and our family, and we're probably going to continue until we just aren't physically able to any more".

Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.

 
Comments
Winston: Bucs’ Ryan Jensen ‘one of the toughest, meanest, baddest centers’

Winston: Bucs’ Ryan Jensen ‘one of the toughest, meanest, baddest centers’

It's hard to miss new Bucs center Ryan Jensen at OTA workouts this week, with his long red hair visible from across the field even when he's wearing a helmet."Any recommendations for anti frizz shampoo and conditioner?" Jensen wrote on Twitter with a...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Forecast: Relative calm before Invest 90L threatens to deluge Tampa Bay this weekend

Forecast: Relative calm before Invest 90L threatens to deluge Tampa Bay this weekend

ST. PETERSBURG — While rain chances will decrease over the next two days, it is only a relative calm before a broad low pressure system moves into the Gulf of Mexico, producing strong storms across an already drenched Tampa Bay for Memorial Day weeke...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Woman, 87, killed in collision while driving wrong way near Brooksville, FHP says

Woman, 87, killed in collision while driving wrong way near Brooksville, FHP says

BROOKSVILLE— An 87-year-old motorist died Tuesday night after she collided with a pickup truck while driving on the wrong side of the road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash occurred about 8:50 p.m. as Patricia Green Marlette of Brook...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Capitals: Stat to watch in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Stat to watch in Game 7

We asked the Times' Lightning coverage team what's the statistic to watch in tonight's Game 7 of the Lightning-Capitals series (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network). Here's their answers. Share yours in the comments section below:Martin Fennelly, columnist:&#...
Updated: 2 hours ago
At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

TAMPA — The name of the new Bay 3 co-working space at the Armature Works goes back to World War I, when the red-brick warehouse overlooking the Hillsborough River was the maintenance barn for Tampa Electric’s streetcar system.As the name suggests, it...
Updated: 2 hours ago
FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

A woman state authorities say was scammed out of $480,000 by two of her employees is an heiress to the Wrigley chewing gum fortune.The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Tuesday that the victim in the case is Helen Rich, 69, formerly Hel...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The Daystarter: All on the line for Lightning; Wrigley gum heiress is scammed; booze at the Magic Kingdom; Kendrick Lamar review

The Daystarter: All on the line for Lightning; Wrigley gum heiress is scammed; booze at the Magic Kingdom; Kendrick Lamar review

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• The forecast calls for partly sunny weather with scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms mainly in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. The chance of rain is...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: The most compelling Game 7 personality

Lightning-Capitals: The most compelling Game 7 personality

Who is the most compelling personality in Lightning-Capitals Game 7?We asked the Times' Lightning coverage team for their answer. Who's yours? Please share in the comments section and feel free to take issue with our answers.JOIN the Lightning Strike...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Shopping Tampa for Ukraine commandos: Bomb-sniffers, drones and laser-proof sniper scopes

Shopping Tampa for Ukraine commandos: Bomb-sniffers, drones and laser-proof sniper scopes

TAMPA — Like a homeowner combing Home Depot for his latest project, Roman Mashovets spent a good part of Tuesday wandering the floor at the Tampa Convention Center.But instead of nails and plywood, Mashovets — a former Ukraine special operations forc...
Published: 05/23/18
Britain’s iconic red phone boxes make comeback; Duterte tells Philippine drug suspects to ‘stay in jail’ to live longer; more in world news

Britain’s iconic red phone boxes make comeback; Duterte tells Philippine drug suspects to ‘stay in jail’ to live longer; more in world news

Philippine prez to drug suspects"You want to live longer? Stay in jail."President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines told drug suspects in a central province Tuesday in his latest televised threats in his bloody anti-drug crackdown. But jails aren’t ...
Published: 05/23/18