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Keeping Joshua Citrus in the family

Surviving the citrus industry for six generations
Posted at 9:35 AM, Jan 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-26 09:35:49-05

ARCADIA, Fla. -- In Southwest Florida the citrus industry produces about 30 percent of the state total, according to Gulf Coast Grower's Association.

Right now farmers are hard at work harvesting their crop for the season. Last year Hurricane Irma made a big impact on production, but this year it's looking up.

“It means a lot to me to be a family business, I think it makes it unique because it’s been passed down through generations on this same property,” said Lynn Shelfer, Joshua Citrus Inc.

For 6 generations the Shelfer family has owned Joshua Citrus.

“I’ve lived here all my life, I didn’t plan on being in the citrus business when I was young, I told everyone I went to college because I didn’t want to drive a tractor but here I am,” said Kevin Shelfer, Joshua Citrus.

Joshua Citrus Inc. has been named a century pioneer farm. In 1887 James Shelfer moved from Texas to Florida after the civil war to start a citrus farm along Joshua Creek.

And it's been in the family ever since.

“Ugh sorry, I always start crying when I tell this part, for me to marry into this family and then my children to work here I mean it just means the world to me,” said Lynn.

“We had them here with us everyday, it just makes for a more close family unit when you can spend that much time with your kids,” said Kevin.

Now their kids, Olivia and Caleb both work on the farm.

Caleb, “Farming means everything to me, I’ve been doing this my whole life pretty much, and it’s a lot of handwork, there’s no limit to the hours you have to put in per day anything happens you have to be there,” said Caleb Shelfer.

Caleb is the grove manager and Olivia runs communications.

“It really brings pride to my family and I to show what we’ve worked so hard for for all these years and for people to see and understand a little bit more about agriculture in general, or even citrus industry from us,” said Olivia.

They grow 10 different types of citrus on about 300 acres of land. From October to May is picking season, the rest of the year is spent doing maintenance.

“You’ve got to take this blossom right here, to this piece of fruit right there, that takes lots of time, lots of work, people don’t realize how much work it takes to get that orange to that size right there,” said Caleb.

And being a family business has it’s challenges.

“It’s trying at times, but we definitely get along, and plan to get along and keep everything going,” said Olivia.

Washing, waxing, packaging, fresh squeezing juice, all takes place on location.

“We feel like we are different from a lot of the industry, you can actually buy our citrus here,” said Lynn.

Their love for the business runs deep.

“It feels good to be able to grow your own fruit, be on your own land and work in this area, it’s really nice,” said Caleb.

“I hope it stays in the family for a long long time, ” said Kevin.