by JESS McDONALD
As Florida growers try their hand at new crops, some are testing the water with macadamia. Glenn Reynolds is one of those growers.
Reynolds, a Lake Alfred farmer and owner of the Florida Macadamia Growers Cooperative, says he’s done with citrus and is instead focusing his attention on macadamia, which is native to Australia and widely grown in Hawaii. He says he started growing the nut in 2005, and currently has about 400-500 trees in the ground with room for another 150.
“I saw greening, and I knew what it had done in other parts of the world,” he says. “I knew it was coming here, and I wanted to find something different.”
He says growers have tried to get macadamia to thrive in Florida, but they failed because they were importing trees from somewhere else. Driven and self-taught, he decided to start with seeds from southern California and has been developing his own varieties ever since.
Now, he does all his own cloning, processing, harvesting, drying, and husking.
“I’m at the rewarding part now because I’m getting to see the products of my labor,” he says.
While greening isn’t a concern for macadamia, there are still plenty of challenges, phytophthora being one of the main ones. Pests like stink bugs and squirrels also pose significant challenges.
Reynolds says part of what makes macadamia so attractive as an emerging crop is the fact that it needs far less nitrogen than citrus and it doesn’t need phosphorus. This makes it more economical than citrus. Once the trees are established, they are fairly drought-resistant, making for easier maintenance, as well.
The expensive part, Reynolds says, comes after the nuts are harvested because they must be husked, dried, cracked and sorted, making for a very time-consuming, expensive process.
Reynolds says he has been doing some preliminary collaboration with Michael Rogers, director of the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, as the center looks into the crop.
He says he’s proud of what he’s done in the past 18 years, but there needs to be more infrastructure for the crop to thrive in Florida.
“There’s a multi-billion dollar industry to be built around the nut here in Florida,” he says.
“I hope it takes off. I believe once there’s an industry and infrastructure behind it, there’s a lot more money to be made off of macadamia than there ever was from citrus.”