FROSTPROOF, Fla. (WFLA) — A Polk County citrus grower says he’s taking a risk to help other growers throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Farmer Mitch McLellan is moving on from citrus after a tree disease and a hurricane wiped out his grove. He says many growers throughout Florida are losing their livelihoods due to citrus greening.
According to leaders with the U.S. Department of Agriculture the bacterial pathogen is the greatest threat to the country’s $3 billion citrus industry. Nearly 76,000 Floridians rely on the industry for work.
McLellan has the greenlight to grow avocados from the USDA and the University of Florida. Leaders from both say he’ll be the first to bring the fruit to central Florida from the southern part of the state.
“Everybody down south is supporting me, they’re telling me, ‘Yeah we want you to grow because that means more business for them’,” McLellan said.
The farmer is investing $18,000 to prepare his field and to purchase more than 700 trees.
McLellan is excited to see what this could mean for fellow growers in the area. He describes the venture as ‘self-rewarding’ and plans to plant the avocado trees at the start of June.