My name is Brad Turner, a fourth generation Florida citrus grower with over 40 years of “hands in the dirt” experience. I have worked in the citrus industry as a commercial grower, production manager, caretaker, and nursery owner in addition to managing cow-calf operations and hay cultivation. Like most in the industry, I had focused on synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides and herbicides as the only management tools needed for citrus.
On February 28, 2017 while standing in a citrus grove that was struggling to survive under the conventional citrus growing model, I looked at a neighboring native forest full of beautiful, healthy citrus trees. I had seen those trees in the oak hammocks my entire life but had never given them much thought until that day. I BEGAN THINKING ABOUT THE SOIL!
Since that day, I have devoted my life to a better understanding of soil. This includes soil biology, chemistry, and physics and how they relate to soil health, plant health and more specifically plant nutrition. All of those sciences seemed complex for an old school citrus grower, and so my journey has included attending numerous soil health and plant nutrition conferences throughout the United States to deepen my understanding of these complex topics. At these conferences I met some of the most interesting educators, consultants, researchers, managers, and growers from across the country and around the world who focus on soil and plant health. In these travels, I also had the good fortune to tour farms in California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, meeting with farmers and ranchers who are successfully implementing these concepts on their farms.
In May 2017, I was preparing to put into action the knowledge I was gathering to begin a cover crop/compost trial on seven acres of mature, struggling citrus. On June 9th of that year, I was introduced to Ed James from Howey in the Hills. As Ed and I toured his grove and talked, I realized my cover crop/compost trial had already been executed and proven successful. Ed shared with me that approximately seven years prior, he had been investigating cover crops and had decided to remove the trees in his failing citrus grove. He intended to plant an alternative crop, but his front-end loader broke down during the process. He left the remaining trees and began planting cover crops to start building up the health of his ball bearing, sandy soil. When I first saw his grove on that June day, all remaining trees were vibrant and producing marketable fruit.
Previously, due to failing tree health and loss of production, I had sold my 110 acre grove and farm. At that time I no longer owned or managed a single citrus tree. Based on what I saw in Ed’s grove, coupled with the information I had gathered, I was ready to take a leap of faith and prove that regenerative farming principles could not only be implemented in the citrus industry, but could address many of the industry’s challenges.
In late 2017, I purchased a 5-acre parcel of vacant land and started planting over 50 varieties of young citrus trees on an assortment of rootstocks. This began my self-funded research on how regenerative farming practices could be implemented into commercial citrus production. Since I am no longer commercially producing citrus, my goal now is to help citrus growers.
For the past five years I have been vetting manufacturing companies and products. There are a select few with the technology that can truly enhance and reduce fertilizer/chemical inputs while buffering the adverse effects of the synthetic portion of a conventional citrus production program.
Given the results observed at the research farm and the knowledge and information I have acquired over the past five years, here are my thoughts: