| Recreational time is a precious commodity for this citrus grower |
WORKING LONG HOURS has been — and still is — a way of life for citrus grower Dennis Carlton. While spending long hours in his groves making sure both trees and fruit are getting the best of care brings pleasure to Carlton, he does enjoy a different change of pace every once in a while. Carlton explains that having a family-owned business, such as he does, enables him to work alongside his son, daughters, and grandchildren, which is one of the most pleasurable aspects of his life.
Since the 1820s, seven generations of Carltons have been involved in agriculture through citrus and cattle operations. Carlton purchased his first grove in 1976 and now has citrus groves in both Hillsborough and Hardee counties. He is one of the few citrus growers left in Hillsborough County.
With wife, Alice, daughters Marjorie and Melissa, and son Dennis Jr. all living within a five-mile radius of the family homestead (which is located in Dover, a little town just west of Plant City), Carlton is able to maintain his groves and ranches as a family operation. While Carlton, Jr. runs the daily events of the Carlton Ranch, son-in-law Patrick takes care of the Audubon Ranch. “Both businesses are family owned and operated, and it would be my hope that the children and grandchildren will continue the tradition for years to come. Even in the youngest ones it is evident that they have a passion for agriculture,” Carlton observes.
Deer hunting is a family recreational tradition for both senior and junior Carlton. Both father and son enjoy bow hunting for white-tailed deer in Hardee County. In the fall, Carlton and his son journey to the Rocky Mountains to listen for the bugling bulls in the high Aspen Groves. Carlton explains, “Dennis Jr.’s passion is quality deer management.”
Son-in-law Pat takes time out for calf and team roping events while senior Carlton takes pride in showing stock and reining events. Carlton elaborates, “Every year, as a family, we try to go to the World Championship and Appaloosa Show in Fort Worth, Texas.” He adds, “We have been fortunate to win several World Champion titles. I have been fortunate to hold true to the competitive spirit even as I get older.”
Another one of Carlton’s pleasures is when October is nearing her end. During his favorite time of year, nature generously gives crisp cool nights with warm sunny days for the Carltons to enjoy work, play, and the great outdoors. “I am blessed that we all work together,” Carlton continues, “and take time off to enjoy each other as a family.”
story by DALE BLISS