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Lone Star Citrus celebrates fifth year, prepares for Fresh Summit

Lone Star Citrus Growers in Mission, TX, is celebrating its fifth season as a company, but its roots in Texas produce stretch much deeper than that.

The company will proudly be part of the “Texas Town” section at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in Atlanta. Lone Star Sales Manager Trent Bishop said that affiliation reflects the way Texas citrus growers do business — and the deep Rio Grande Valley roots they all share.

“Twenty years ago, there were 20 or 30 citrus growers in the Valley; now there are four main ones,” Mr. Bishop said. “We are competitors on paper, but our children go to the same schools, we go to the same churches, we eat in the same restaurants. We are a family.”

That family will have an annual reunion at PMA’s Fresh Summit.

“PMA is always a great event for us, it’s a chance to see some old friends and make some new ones,” Mr. Bishop said. “You never leave PMA without new business. They do a great job putting that show together, and it’s a very valuable experience.”

Lone Star’s employee roster represents another kind of family. Most of the company’s employees “have been with us since the day we opened the door five years ago and deserve some recognition,” Mr. Bishop said.

The list of those who have been at Lone Star since day one, aside from Mr. Bishop and his partners Jud Flowers and T.J. Flowers, includes Controller Susie Marroquin; Plant Manager Derek Howard; Safety Director Pete Torres; Shipping Manager Pete Gonzalez; the accounting department of Margie Flowers, Linda Guzman, Sara Gonzales and Richard Shull; and salesmen Michael Harris and Mike Flowers.”

“We have some great employees who are responsible for us being where we are,” Mr. Bishop said.

And while the whole team will not be at Fresh Summit since the Texas citrus season is beginning to ramp up, “Once we turn this bad boy on, we’ll go straight on through April 15-May 1 — somewhere in that area,” he said. “Sundays will be the only days we don’t run fruit from this point forward.”

Mr. Bishop added that the company will have several representatives at the Fresh Summit and will welcome visitors with open arms.

Lone Star grows and ships a variety of Texas citrus, most notably red grapefruit. Its groves and facilities are “completely on the PTI program” and have been for two years, Mr. Bishop said.

“I’m a proud Texan and a grapefruit eater, and I think we grow arguably the best piece of fruit in the world,” Mr. Bishop said. “A lot of our customers really like to see the Texas thing get started because retail sales increase once Texas gets back into the game. It’s something retailers can promote, something their customers wait for, and just like much of the California tree fruit in the summertime, people look forward to that. When they start seeing Texas grapefruit in the stores, that’s something they’ve been looking forward to since we wrapped up last April and May.”