Labor Day at Highlands Hammock

Highlands Hammock State Park tram tours run during the Labor Day holiday weekend. Trams run at 9:30 a.m. (Friday) Aug. 30 and (Monday) Sept. 2. As park tram tours are suspended in summer, the Labor Day holiday is a wonderful opportunity for Heartland residents and visitors to ride through the park’s magnificent hammock and take in the final days of summer. Tram tickets for the Labor Day trams are sold in advance at the Hammock Inn concession. Cost is $10 per adult, $5 for kids 6-12. Children five and younger are free. 863-402-0061, 5931 Hammock Road, Sebring.

True friend of Florida ag

It is not often that I use this page to give a tip of the hat and offer congratulations to someone on their retirement. The reason is simple. There are so many good people in this industry worthy of recognition, it would be a monthly affair if I did. But every so often I will take a point of privilege and give someone a special nod here for a career of good works. In July, Gene McAvoy, Hendry County’s Extension Director and Regional Vegetable Extension Agent for Southwest Florida, retired from UF/IFAS. Gene also has penned Florida Grower magazine’s monthly “Pest of the Month” column for two decades.

Gene has been a special friend to Florida Grower magazine, and me personally, over the years and always is among the first people I call when it when comes to South Florida vegetable production questions. He also is my personal pest ID man. I have sent him numerous text messages with a photo I’ve taken of some critter with the message—What is this one, Gene?

Gene, we are forever grateful for your service to Florida agriculture and your contributions to this magazine. And the good news is Gene’s “Pest of the Month” contributions will continue here in Florida Grower, and he tells me he will have other projects going. So, he’s going to be around to lend his knowledge and expertise even in retirement. We are all glad to hear that.

Congratulations on retirement and a job well done!

Frank Giles is editor of Florida Grower

Can citrus keep the momentum?

The 2018-2019 Florida citrus season was all about getting back on track after the industry was derailed the year before by Hurricane Irma. The sector’s resilience through post-storm stress and ongoing pest-and-disease headaches helped yield a marked turnaround this past season, resulting in a 27-million box gain in oranges over the previous campaign’s output to ultimately finish at 71.6 million boxes. So, what’s in store for the 2019-2020 season? One industry pundit has an idea.

According to news reports, local citrus economist Elizabeth Steger foresees continued recovery and is projecting an orange crop harvest of 73 million boxes (give or take). Largely based on observations made during grove tours, Steger annually divulges her findings way out ahead of USDA. The government agency is slated to give its initial citrus crop estimate for 2019-2020 on Oct. 10.

Hurricanes aside, citrus greening has progressively taken a bite out of the Sunshine State’s signature crop output. The 1997-1998 season set the bar for orange crop harvest at 244 million boxes.

Paul Rusnak is the Senior Managing Online Editor of Florida Grower, American Vegetable Grower, American Fruit Grower, and Greenhouse Grower magazines.

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