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Edinburg Citrus Association celebrates 80 years by adding groves, staff

The Edinburg Citrus Association in Edinburg, TX, is growing again, planting new grapefruit and orange acreage and adding to its staff as it makes ready to celebrate its 80th anniversary this season.

The new acreage adds to the several thousand the association already tends, but the new groves will not bear literal fruit for three-to-five years. The new staff, however, will start yielding dividends right away.

Elias Hernandez recently came aboard as grove care manager, after being part of the staff at the Texas A&M University Kingsville Citrus Center.

“His wealth of experience and years at the Texas A&M citrus center brings a strong depth in this area,” said General Manager Jeff Arnold. “It all starts here in the groves and we work closely with our growers to assist at that level. At the same time, we are focusing on our packinghouse, improving the systems and procedures in order to pack the best quality pack we can.”

Mr. Hernandez joins current Field Manager Andy Martinez in the field and grove care division.

Additionally, Jeff Husfeld has returned to the association sales department after six years spent running his own agricultural business. Mr. Husfeld also previously worked with the Texas Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services as a marketing specialist, and in Kroger’s buying office in the Rio Grande Valley, responsible for sourcing and procuring produce from Texas, Mexico and Colorado.

“Jeff brings such a strong background in agriculture and retail procurement knowledge to our sales team and we couldn’t be more pleased to have him back,” said Sales Manager Ruben Shives. Mr. Husfeld will work alongside Mr. Shives and Steve Cowgill, who moved into sales last year after five years with the association.

The association is committed to continued growth, said Director of Marketing Paula Fouchek. “We say that ECA is steeped in history but focused on the future. We are proud of the fact that we have multiple generations of growers that belong to our citrus cooperative and we have more coming into the business. There is a strong commitment to our future growth, both to our growers and our retail customers,” she said.

While the association’s future growth is assured, it is likely that this season’s crop will be smaller than last year’s, as is the case across the valley.

“No doubt that all of Texas has been suffering through drought conditions this summer. However, south Texas did receive some timely mid-summer rains that were helpful and the area continues to have ample water in the reservoirs which allows for timely irrigation,” Ms. Fouchek said. “At ECA, we have continued to irrigate, so our trees are looking good.”

Following the torrential rains of summer 2010, the association began harvesting early last year, around the start of October. This year’s season gets off to a more typical start in mid-October, Mr. Shives said.

And while the overall crop may be diminished somewhat, fruit size looks good. Mr. Shives said that the association anticipates good quality and availability of all sizes of grapefruit with only a small decrease in the overall crop. The orange crop took only a minor ding from weather — the result will be slight reductions in some orange varieties, “primarily due to late frost during the bloom period” in February, Mr. Shives said.