Florida Citrus Hall of Fame Names 2021 Inductees
By GRACE BOGGESS HIRDES
The Florida Citrus Hall of Fame was created to honor distinguished leaders who have made significant contributions to the Florida citrus industry, and the Selection Committee has announced its four distinguished leaders for 2021 who will be inducted during the upcoming 58th Citrus Celebration Luncheon. Brenda Burnette, executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, explains that the selection committee is composed of 20 people in the citrus industry from throughout the state, so each area is represented.
“Each inductee must obtain a majority vote to be selected,” she says.
This year the committee chose John L. Jackson of Sorrento; the late Lew J. Prosser, formerly of Plant City; Adam H. Putnam of Memphis; and Steven D. Sorrells of Arcadia.
Jackson has been with the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame for more than 40 years, serving as chairman from 2006 to 2019. Burnette says he’s led the organization “from certain bankruptcy to a partnership with Florida Southern College that now has an endowment of over $300,000 to help preserve and promote the heritage of the Florida citrus industry through an engaged learning program with fellowship students.”
He was also responsible for innovations such as the Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) and Water Conserv II, encouraging citrus producers to use reclaimed water for irrigation. He established the Mid-Florida Citrus Foundation (MFCF) as the research arm of the effort and served as the MFCF manager for more than 20 years. He also established an annual equipment operator’s school, now known as Farm Safety Day as well as the Central Florida 4-H Citrus Project, which over a 20-year period engaged more than 2,000 middle and high school students in agriculture.
Prosser, who was known as Plant City’s “Quiet Entrepreneur,” created the first farm production credit association in the Plant City area, organized the first and only citrus canning plant in the area, Citrus Products Co., and created the Florida Mixed Car Company. He also underwrote a three-year case against the Interstate Commerce Commission in the mid-1930s that resulted in significant relief for produce growers and shippers by requiring express companies to provide full refrigerated car service for produce at reduced rates and increased shipments of produce from Plant City. He was also part of the development of two patents. One helped slow down decay and eliminated the need for individually wrapping each piece of fruit, and the second was a color-added process to improve fruit appearance. who died in 1996
Putnam, a fifth-generation Floridian and third-generation farmer, is no stranger around these parts of the state. Burnette explains that he served in Congress during a “particularly challenging” time for the citrus industry and helped get Florida farmers back on their feet after devastating hurricanes in 2004.
During his tenure, he assisted and coordinated nearly every political aspect of the Florida citrus industry’s need to preserve and protect the industry. He has provided leadership on Food Safety laws, water issues, government transparency, the preservation of the Florida Everglades, and created the “Fresh from Florida” campaign to raise awareness and access to fresh fruits and vegetables from Florida. His efforts in maintaining international market access for Florida citrus trade during his tenure helped keep export markets viable.
Sorrells has been a giant in the Florida citrus industry for more than 47 years, growing a family business from 400 acres in 1972 to its current production of 5,500 acres.
One of his biggest contributions to the industry, Burnette says, was being the first grower to utilize the U.S. Department of Labor’s H-2A visa program to obtain labor to harvest citrus more than 20 years ago. He has served on numerous industry boards and organizations and is the only two-time president of Florida Citrus Mutual. Sorrells also chaired the Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee, which directed the industry strategy on how to preserve the tariff on imported OJ while also making sure that exporters were playing by the rules. Sorrells also served as chairman of the original Florida Citrus Production Research Advisory Council (FCPRAC) and has embraced new technology and practices in rehabilitating groves that could soon become industry standards. He was also a 20-year member of the board for Orange Growers Marketing Association (OGMA), and helped maintain their position as Florida’s Natural Growers’ largest fruit supplier. He is one of the most highly respected advocates of the industry today.
Each of the four Inductees will be honored at a luncheon in the fall of this year. To purchase tickets, call Florida Citrus Mutual at (863) 682-1111. A portion of the proceeds from all ticket sales will go to fund an Educational Outreach program to help promote the history of the Florida citrus industry. For more information on members of the Citrus Hall of Fame, visit the web site at FloridaCitrusHallofFame.com.