FROSTPROOF, Fla. (WFLA) — Polk County is home to central Florida’s first avocado farm. A former citrus farmer believes the fruit could be the key to saving the local agriculture industry.
Citrus greening killed Mitch McLellan’s grove in Frostproof and claimed 60% of the acreage throughout Florida. He believes the disease could end citrus farming in the state.
McLellan is investing in 700 avocado trees. He’s taking a risk to bring the fruit to the central part of the state.
“It’s always a gamble, farming, there’s no way around it,” the farmer said.
Other local growers are supporting his efforts. McLellan says, “They all come in the hope that this will produce something that all these citrus growers are looking for an alternative to citrus because it’s all dying out.”
Some area farmers showed up to help plant the avocado trees, Tuesday. According to McLellan the trees will reach full production in five years. He says a full crop will provide a $100,000 return, annually.
“I’ll get out here like I did with the orange trees and I’ll hoe and shovel and I’ll rake and hoe around each on of these trees. I’ll nurture them and make them grow,” McLellan describes. He believes it’s a big risk that will be worth it, if it’s an alternative to citrus.