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David Crews

Waverly Growers Cooperative

Founded in 1914 by eight growers, this packinghouse once featured a Waverly Welcome House gift fruit operation. The label shown here dates back to the 1930s.

David Crews is President of the Waverly Growers Cooperative and a third-generation citrus grower who draws from his grandfather’s and father’s values in his own growing style.


Is it really true that you got off to a rough start?
I planted my first grove in the late ‘70s. My brother, Jeff, also planted one not far from here. His grove grew all kinds of fruit, but mine didn’t. If it rained over there, it didn’t over here. I couldn't do anything right—and I tried just about everything! I laugh about it now, but I came out one day and asked God to show me what I needed to do. I haven’t challenged Him since, but that grove finally grew oranges!

Divine intervention, or divine patience?
Maybe both! And destiny. My grandfather helped plant some of the original seedling orange trees in the Bartow area of Florida in the early 1900s. My dad planted his first grove in Alturas after WWII. My wife, Carol, and I started our groves after I graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Marketing. And now, my son Matthew just bought his first grove. He’s the fourth generation of Crews citrus growers.

How has being part of the Florida’s Natural Growers cooperative helped?
It’s the best way for relatively small growers like us to get the marketing and purchasing advantages that larger growers have. It also helps me keep up with the latest information. I learn from the experiences of other growers, by taking classes and mostly by doing.

You’re very hands-on.
I do the majority of my own grove work—mowing, pruning, applying herbicide, irrigating, planting new citrus trees. If I’m doing the disking, I can see all the trees. I believe that doing certain things lets you see other things.

It also lets you pick your own lunch.
Yes! I have an orange every day, out here in the groves.

How has Central Florida changed since you were a kid?
Growing up, my grandfather, my father, my brothers—most everyone around here—was involved in agriculture. Now, being in agriculture means you’re in a minority industry. Lots of groves have been pushed out for development.

But you keep on innovating. By the way, what is a Fallglo?
It’s delicious! It’s 5/8 tangerine, 2/8 orange and 1/8 grapefruit. I planted the first Fallglo tangerine grove in Polk County—even though the local papers said somebody else did it first. My trees were planted six months before! Anyway, I believe that we citrus growers can continue for a long time if we continue to produce a product that looks good, tastes good and is good for you.


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