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MitCo Grow program uses UGA cultivars in new Mitchell County citrus grove By Clint Thompson

Citrus fruit cultivars recently released by University of Georgia scientist Wayne Hanna are part of a new citrus grove planted in Camilla, Georgia. The grove will serve as an education site and provide homegrown fruit for the inmates who will care for the grove. 

The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Mitchell County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Georgia Citrus Association, and Mitchell County 4-H and FFA programs collaborated to start the MitCo Grow program. The mission of the program is to educate Georgians about the state’s citrus industry.

As part of the MitCo Grow program, 100 citrus trees were planted in a grove located next to the Mitchell County UGA Cooperative Extension office. Mitchell County Correctional Institute inmates planted 90 trees. The remaining 10 were planted during an event recognizing the program, on Thursday, May 11.

Among the trees planted, 30 consisted of Hanna’s three patented, seedless, cold-hardy citrus tree cultivars: a tangerine, ‘Sweet Frost’; a lemon, ‘Grand Frost’; and a grapefruit, ‘Pink Frost.’ Hanna released these cultivars in November 2016, after studying them extensively in plots on the UGA Tifton campus.

“This is a great program because it really sheds light on an up-and-coming industry like citrus. For the past few years, citrus fruits have become more popular because farmers and homeowners are finding success growing these in south Georgia,” Hanna said. “In the type of climate we are used to in south Georgia, I feel confident they will grow and produce consistently.”

Mitchell County Correctional Institute inmates will tend the grove. They will also enjoy the literal fruits of their labor when the plants bear fruit in a few years.

“The grove will not only teach inmates a new trade, but will also be used by other county agencies to provide students and their local communities with information and exposure to this new commodity,” said Lindy Savelle, president of the Georgia Citrus Association.

The MitCo Grow program comes at a minimal cost to Mitchell County taxpayers. 1 DOG Ventures, a Mitchell County citrus nursery, supplied the trees for the grove, and Bell Irrigation and Labro Irrigation provided the irrigation supplies and service. Waters Agricultural Laboratories will test the soil, Graco Fertilizer will cover the grove’s fertilizer needs and Maxijet will provide microjet sprinklers for the site.

“To make a program like this work, you need cooperation from multiple entities, and that’s what you see here. People are dedicated to seeing the citrus industry succeed here in Georgia, and I think it will,” said Jennifer Grogan, Mitchell County Extension coordinator.

Georgia Citrus Association board members; local farmers and investors interested in commercially growing citrus; and city, county, state and federal government representatives attended the planting ceremony.

This is the second collaborative project between UGA Extension and the Mitchell County Correctional Institute meant to save money for Mitchell County taxpayers. In 2014, former Mitchell County Extension agent Max DeMott met with Bill Terry, warden of the correctional institute, about offsetting the costs of feeding as many as 114 inmates. This meeting led to the donation of surplus crops by farmers in Mitchell and surrounding counties to feed inmates.

During his time as warden, Terry led the collection of bell peppers, corn, eggplants, cantaloupes, watermelons and greens. While Terry paid reduced prices for some produce, most of the vegetables have been donated at no cost.

For more information on citrus in Georgia, visit extension.uga.edu.

(Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.)

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Mitchell County 4-H members Madison Birdsong and Courtney Conine plant a citrus tree.

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Mitchell County 4-H members Madison Birdsong and Courtney Conine plant a citrus tree. Download Image
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Sponsors of the MitCo Grow event.

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UGA scientist Wayne Hanna speaks about citrus tree research.

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Mitchell County Extension Coordinator Jennifer Grogan and Grady County ANR Agent Brian Hayes plant a citrus tree.

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