This the third installment of four special Q&A features with Larry Black, the 2021 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner. He is VP and General Manager of Ft. Meade, FL-based Peace River Packing Co.
How important is it to bring young people into the citrus industry?
BLACK: The citrus industry and the entire agriculture sector have great opportunities for young people looking for rewarding careers. There is a critical need to increase the number of young people interested in careers in ag, particularly on the production ag side. The use of technology and the rate of change is rapid. The University of Florida, Florida Southern, and Warner University are doing a great job developing talent for the industry. I am very impressed with the training UF provides students through distance learning, using technology to eliminate barriers for students that may not be able to relocate.
What are your thoughts on citrus under protective screen (CUPS) and its future in Florida citrus?
BLACK: CUPS is an innovative approach to grow citrus in an HLB-free environment. It is exciting to watch this segment of the industry develop. I believe there will be certain high-value varieties that will be an economic success when grown in CUPS. There is a steep learning curve, and capital costs are high, so our family is not investing in CUPS at this time. I believe the citrus-breeding programs will deliver new plant material over time that will allow the fresh sector to prosper without the need for large- scale adoption of CUPS.