Big Cypress Citrus
Big Cypress Citrus Grove operates under the direction of the Seminole Tribe of Florida governing council. It was developed with an A.N.A. (Administration of Native Americans) grant of $1.5 million dollars. The plan was to develop 200 acres each year for three years to achieve a 600-acre grove. Clearing and developing work began in August of 1987, with the first trees planted in January of 1989. The varieties planted consisted of 162 acres of Hamlin oranges, 218 acres of Rhode Red Valencias, 52 acres of Flame Red grapefruit, 37 acres of Murcotts, and 38 acres of Robinson tangerines. Golden Gem, a cooperative out of Umatilla, has a contract on all fruit raised on this grove.
The original plan was to provide work for the local population on the reservation. As the economy of the citrus industry shifted to the low side of returns, the plan was changed to raise fruit as efficiently as possible.
In 1980, the Seminole tribe of Florida began to look at the citrus industry as a source of economic development. At this time, a general study was commissioned to assess the potential of agriculture development within the Big Cypress and Brighton Reservations. It was no surprise that citrus was identified as a profitable use of suitable agriculture land.
Within the next five years, soil surveys were prepared and specific locations for this "suitable" acreage was pinpointed. A BIA grant offered technical assistance to determine the feasibility of purchasing existing leased citrus groves and developing additional acreage.
Nearly two decades before, the Tribe had leased out some 1500 acres to private interest, who maintained "world class" groves of lemon (Big Cypress Groves, Inc.) and grapefruit (Garden Groves, Inc.). The Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. purchased the leases on these two operations, in 1990.