History of Citrus: Citrus has been farmed commercially in Florida since the mid-1800s. The first citrus was brought to the New World in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. In the mid-1500s one of the early Spanish explorers, most likely Ponce de Leon, planted the first orange trees around St. Augustine, Florida.
Florida's unique sandy soil and subtropical climate proved to be ideal for growing the seeds that the early settlers planted and have flourished ever since. Today it is a $9 billion industry, employing nearly 76,000 Floridians.
Citrus Products: Florida growers produce several types of citrus, including oranges, grapefruit and specialty fruit including Temple oranges, tangerines and tangelos.
The most commonly-grown varieties of Florida oranges are Navel, Hamlin, Pineapple, Ambersweet and Valencia. The fresh orange season typically runs from October through June.
The most commonly grown varieties of Florida grapefruit are Ruby Red, Flame, Thompson, Marsh and Duncan. The fresh grapefruit season typically runs from September through June.
Florida producers grow a handful of specialty fruit, which are in season from October through April.
Market Share: Florida is second only to Brazil in global orange juice production and the state remains the world's leading producer of grapefruit. Florida produces more than 70 percent of the United States' supply of citrus, with major overseas export markets including Canada, Japan, France and the U.K. In most seasons, more than 90 percent of America's orange juice is made from Florida-grown oranges. Nearly 87 percent of Florida citrus is processed into orange and grapefruit juices.
Acreage and Growing Areas: In Florida, there are nearly 569,000 acres of citrus groves and more than 74 million citrus trees. Most citrus is grown in the southern two-thirds of the Florida peninsula, where probability for a freeze is lowest. After a series of freezes in the 1980s, citrus growers gradually migrated southward from central and northern regions, although Polk County in the central Florida remains the top citrus producing county.