Don't be surprised if you see an OJ carton bearing Ted Schrader's picture the next time you're in the juice aisle.
The county commissioner from San Antonio hasn't gone missing. (It's not a milk carton, after all.) The picture is part of an advertising campaign for Florida's Natural brand juice.
"It appears I am on the orange juice, not from concentrate," Schrader said, adding the company has several other offerings such as grapefruit juice.
Florida's Natural — a cooperative owned by citrus growers — developed the campaign several years ago to underscore that the juice comes from Florida. The co-op's website features a section with photos and short biographies of a dozen growers. Schrader is featured as co-owner of his family citrus business and president of Winter Haven Citrus Growers Association. His picture began appearing on cartons in January, along with two other growers.
Skeptics would say it's difficult to separate Ted Schrader the citrus company owner from Ted Schrader the county commissioner. The cartons are hitting shelves right as he's preparing to run for a fourth term on the commission.
Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley chuckled when asked if Schrader had to list the cartons as an in-kind donation on future campaign reports.
"What's next, are we going to see Wilton Simpson's face on our eggs?" he said, referring to the Trilby farmer and businessman running for state Senate.
Corley said he doesn't believe the cartons are political. "If it said 'vote for Ted Schrader' or 'Ted Schrader for County Commission' that would be a different issue," he said.
In the August Republican primary, Schrader faces Ron Oakley, a member of another east Pasco citrus family. Oakley doesn't have a problem with the cartons, but he said they probably help boost his opponent's name recognition.
"Maybe that's the closest he ever got to the oranges," Oakley quipped.
In addition to his citrus business and work as a commissioner, Schrader is also co-owner of a family real estate company.
Distribution of the cartons isn't limited to Pasco, or even Florida. Far from it. Florida's Natural spokeswoman Nikki Black said the company's juice is in 95 percent of grocery stores nationwide and in 40 countries.
The three newly released cartons are randomly distributed in shipments, meaning juice shoppers are just as likely to see Schrader's picture on cartons as they are pictures of Lindsay Raley of Dundee or David Crews of Lake Wales.
The picture shows Schrader walking through a grove near his Uncle Herman Schrader's home, with Lake Jovita in the background. Above the photo is a quote from Herman Schrader: "Our family has been very lucky to do what we do. I've been doing it all my life, and to be honest, I'll probably do it until the very end."
The family has between 150 and 200 acres of groves and manages another 500 acres or so for other growers. As co-op members, about 20 percent of the family's oranges are committed to Florida's Natural. Though prices fluctuate from year to year, Ted Schrader said, the agreement ensures those oranges don't go unsold.
"The main point of it is, you're guaranteed a home for your fruit," he said.
Oranges that don't end up with Florida's Natural are usually sold to other juice companies. A good portion of that citrus is carried to processing plants on trucks owned by another company with a local political connection: Oakley Transport.
Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.