Florida roots: A farmer; a superhero — or both?

Florida roots: A farmer; a superhero — or both?

Christian Spinosa as the voice of Captain Citrus

MANY YOUNG KIDS dream of growing up to be a farmer or a superhero, but not usually both. For Central Florida native Christian Spinosa, it’s a daily reality. Hailing from a long line of citrus and beef producers, Spinosa has recently had the pleasure of helping out the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) with its campaign to raise awareness of Florida citrus using Marvel comic book characters. When he’s not heading the PCFB’s Young Farmer and Rancher (YF&R) committee, working cows or walking the citrus groves on the family-owned operation — Dudley Putnam, Inc. — Christian fights evil-doers alongside the likes of Thor, Iron Man and Hulk as the voice of Florida-citrus-grower-turned-superhero, Captain Citrus.

Captain Citrus is being featured in comic books and videos distributed online and in schools across the country, and touting the benefits of citrus along the way. “It is an awesome feeling knowing that I am the voice of Captain Citrus and seeing how the Florida Department of Citrus is using him,” Spinosa shares. “Captain Citrus is going to schools across the nation, and knowing that I am making that kind of impact in spreading the importance of citrus and its many benefits is a great feeling.”

Like many superheroes, Spinosa seems to have been destined for this role. “I am a fifth-generation Florida farmer,” he continues, “and I currently work as assistant production manager for our citrus and beef cattle operation. We have been farming in Polk County for 100 years.” His family tree includes many ag folks; one notable member is his uncle, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. Championing agriculture is just something that is in Spinosa’s blood. “I currently serve as chair for the Polk County Young Farmers and Ranchers committee as well as the Florida Young Farmer and Rancher President,” he explains. “Being the chair of Polk County YF&R has been an awesome experience.”

The opportunity to voice a superhero came about when the FDOC decided on the Captain Citrus character. “I got a call one day asking about having a few of our committee members come in to help in a survey,” Spinosa recalls, remembering how later he “learned that this was an excuse to hear my voice and see if I had what it took to be Captain Citrus.” Though he had some reservations and told only a few people close to him about his new gig — “The key to a good superhero is anonymity!” he jokes, adding, “However, my fiancé Sarah did know and was very supportive of me.” He quickly channeled his inner “Captain Citrus” and understood how important it was to increase awareness of Florida citrus and agriculture to young kids.

Spinosa maintains that both his work with being the voice of Captain Citrus and on the YF&R committees are aimed at getting others (especially young people) involved in agriculture: “We are a very diverse group of young people made up of citrus growers, blueberry producers, cattle ranchers, nurserymen, marketing managers, Realtors, college students, and many more. The number one thing we all share is our passion for agriculture and educating not only ourselves but the community on the importance of agriculture in Polk County, our nation, and the world.”

Shaping the next generation of agriculture producers is every bit as important as stopping a meteor on a collision course with Earth or foiling an evil super villain. With world populations growing at the speed of light, getting Florida kids interested in citrus and agriculture is Spinosa’s true superpower. Kids who envision being a superhero likely won’t, but — with the help of “agvocates” like Christian Spinosa — those who dream of being a farmer can change the world.

CREDITS

article by ERIKA ALDRICH
portrait by PEZZIMENTI