For those in the Florida citrus community, the McLean name is well known and regarded for success in and around the groves. Now, the deep-rooted citrus family has a new reason to celebrate. Michaela McLean of Clermont was recently crowned Miss Florida Citrus 2019.

The Miss America preliminary pageant, hosted by David Lang of Regalia Magnificent Apparel, was held at Polk State College’s Fine Arts Theatre where contestants were judged on their personal interview, evening wear/on-stage question, talent and swimsuit, with more than $3,000 in cash, scholarships and prizes awarded to the top five finalists.

McLean, who was sponsored by Pro Citrus Network, has literally grown up around citrus her entire life. Her father, Ben McLean III, has served as a board member of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation for the past eight years. Michaela’s uncle, Matt McLean, is the founder of Clermont-based Uncle Matt’s Organic, a market leader in organic orange and grapefruit juice. Her grandfather, Benny McLean, was named “Organic Farmer of the Year” in 2015.

For the past several years, Michaela has worked the U-Pick store for McLean Family Farms in the spring and sends out fresh organic citrus gift fruit during the holidays. She was the 2015 Miss Florida Outstanding Teen and placed in the Top 10 at the 2015 Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant. In May, the 21-year old will graduate from the University of Alabama with a double major in dance and public relations. She is the co-founder of Brave and Beautiful, LLC, which empowers women to live, love, and lead courageously. During her spring break this year, she taught dance in orphanages and brought the message of Brave and Beautiful into schools and churches in the Dominican Republic.

McLean wasn’t the only winner at the pageant. Juliana Fray of Tampa took the title of Miss Winter Haven. Sponsored by Straughn & Turner, P.A., the 20-year old sophomore at the University of Tampa is seeking a career in campaign management and kick-started her career plans by interning with Blue Ticket Consulting in St. Petersburg for the 2018 midterm elections. Fray’s career plans also double as her platform, “Your Vote, Your Voice,” which encourages youth voters to perform their civic duty and vote, as well as become educated voters to facilitate discussion and participate in public discourse.

The Florida Citrus Queen Pageant began in 1924 and has been part of the Miss America Organization off and on throughout the years with the name changing to Miss Florida Citrus in 1984. Miss Winter Haven was added to the program last year. Both titleholders will go on to compete in the Miss Florida Pageant, which takes place in Lakeland June 25-29. The winner there will represent the Sunshine State in this fall’s Miss America pageant.

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

Arcadian judges LaBelle rabbit/cavy showThe LaBelle Youth Livestock Rabbit and Cavy Show sponsored by LaBelle Ranch Supply was held Feb. 11, with Mrs. Jamie Dixon of Arcadia serving as the official judge.

Kassi Dupree, Beryl Gonzalez, Peal Gonzalez, Morgan Lujan, Shawn Martin, Andres Martinez, Amelia Martinez, Armando Martinez, Alexandro Martinez, Grace Washam, Katherine Washam and Lily Washam were among the exhibitors.

The Rabbit and Cavy exhibitors were either members of the LaBelle All Kinds of Critters 4-H Club led by Mylissa Dalrymple or the Pioneer Small Animal 4-H Club led by Patricia Bosley. Thank you, club leaders and parents; exhibitors did great exhibiting their animals. The sponsorship given by LaBelle Ranch Supply was greatly appreciated.

Sonja Crawford Hendry County 4H/Livestock Agent Can be reached at

Mission to mine blood orange varietyFlorida growers have long sought a blood orange that will develop uniform and reliable color. The deep red color is the result of anthocyanin expression, a healthful compound that also is responsible for the oranges’ unique flavor.

Unfortunately, anthocyanin expression requires more chilling hours than Florida’s subtropical environment typically affords.

Because blood oranges present unique marketing opportunities for fresh and processed markets, extensive trials were conducted in Maitland, Lake Weir, Indiantown, and other Florida sites dating back to the 1940s (and perhaps earlier). Though researchers identified some interesting blood orange varieties, nothing colored consistently enough for commercial application. Blood oranges remain a very small niche market for Florida growers.

Lycopene, another healthful compound, provides the beautiful red color in grapefruit, tomatoes, papaya, watermelons, ‘Cara-Cara’ Navel oranges, and a host of other fruits and vegetables. Thankfully, lycopene is very much at home in subtropical environments. While lycopene-colored citrus fruit doesn’t have the same flavor profile as blood orange, it does exhibit beautiful flesh color and sometimes a blush to the peel. If only we could have a red Valencia orange that colors with lycopene!

The ‘Ruby’ Valencia is a branch mutation of an ‘Olinda’ Valencia orange discovered on the Crocodile Valley Estate near Nelspruit, South Africa. The ‘Ruby’ was chosen exclusively for its internal and external color made possible by high levels of lycopene. It is ideally suited for warm climates where it is able to produce higher lycopene content and prevent excessive cropping. Other than its red color, ‘Ruby’ characteristics are identical to those of the original ‘Olinda’ clone. Where are we in this process?

NVDMC recently held a ‘Ruby’ Valencia field day in Haines City, FL. Several thousand trees were available for planting in the spring 2019, providing more opportunity for trial and a boost in determining its long-term commercial potential. Trees in Florida are not old enough to generate conclusive information, but all have performed well to date.

Grower contracts are available that enable growers to proceed with commercial plantings if desired. Contact NVDMC for more information. Propagations are limited to one nursery. Other nurseries are encouraged to follow the progress of this variety if the event propagation rights are extended.

Peter Chaires is executive director of the New Varieties Development & Management Corp.

Latest ‘Dirty Dozen’ list dropsSpring time signals a fresh start. It also is about the same time when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases its “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.” The annual report, which showcases a “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables reported to contain the most pesticide residues, is quick to make rounds in mainstream media. This year has been no different in that regard, along with strong reaction from the produce industry attempting to set the record straight. What is different in 2019 is the addition of kale to the “Dirty Dozen.”

When samples of the trendy vegetable were tested for the 2019 report, according to EWG, more than 92 percent had two or more pesticide residues detected, and a single sample could contain up to 18 different residues.

A passage from EWG’s “2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce” report reads as follows: “Overall, the USDA found 225 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on popular fruits and vegetables Americans eat every day. Before testing, all produce was washed and peeled, just as people would prepare food for themselves, which shows that simple washing does not remove all pesticides.”

EWG states that its Shopper’s Guide is designed to help consumers reduce pesticide exposures as much as possible “by indicating which produce to buy organic, and which conventional products are low in pesticide residue.”

The Alliance for Food and Farming also responded in kind to the latest dishing of the “Dirty Dozen.” A blog post titled “Facts About the ‘Dirty Dozen’ List,” puts factors like methodology, organic standards, and consumption under the microscope: “If you are concerned about residues on kale, you would have to eat a lot more each day to see any health effects. A man would have to eat 26,061 servings in a day, a woman 18,615 servings, a teenager 14,892 servings, and a child 7,746 servings in a day and they still would not have any health effects from residues …”

On the flip side, EWG also shines a light on what it calls the “Clean Fifteen,” items that tested low in concentrations of pesticide residues. Here’s a sampling of what was found:

Less than 1 percent of avocados and sweet corn samples showed any detectable pesticides.

More than 70 percent of “Clean Fifteen” fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues.

With the exception of cabbage, all other produce on the “Clean Fifteen” tested positive for less than four pesticides.

Only 6 percent of “Clean Fifteen” fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.

Paul Rusnak


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