C. Elton Crews (1914-2004)
Sprinkler Pipe Irrigation
Microjet Irrigation System
Florida Department of Agriculture
Citrus Tree Nutrition
C. Elton Crews, Inc.
C. Elton Crews has been called one of Florida’s “Modern Citrus Pioneers.” Born in September, 1914, Crews’s family, having migrated to Florida from Georgia in the 1840s, was already a part of Florida agriculture. Elton did not initially intend to follow in his family’s footsteps and pursue agriculture, but he ended up doing so anyway, after being forced to withdraw from business school when his father fell off a horse in 1937.
Crews learned the nuances of the citrus industry by managing a twenty acre grove which he and his brother had purchased near Avon Park. In 1941, he moved with his wife, Norma, to Avon Park in Highlands County, where he would remain for over sixty years until his death. Crews later acquired and developed properties spanning Highlands, Hardee, and Polk counties.
Managing his first grove, Crews became familiar with fertilizing, spraying, and most importantly, irrigating-techniques of which he advanced throughout his career. In 1937 Crews used sprinkler pipe for irrigation, but he switched to overhead irrigation in 1961. In 2003 he became one of the first growers to switch to the micro jet system, which reduced water usage and allowed for better freeze protection. Crews’s innovative practices and methods became standard in the field. He was one of the first to advocate high density planting, hedging, and pruning to increase yields.
He worked with the FDA, IFAS and USDA to conduct one of the only long-term field trials in the history of Florida public research. The study, conducted at his own expense, led to breakthroughs in rootstock selection and performance, citrus tree nutrition, and the aforementioned micro jet sprinkler system. Although they were privately funded, these discoveries benefitted the entire industry. Throughout his life, he was known for his willingness to share what he knew with others.
In 1940, Crews established C. Elton Crews, Inc., which provided caretaking and harvesting services to growers in Central Florida for over 50 years. He also established satellite businesses to supplement his caretaking business.
Crews was a well-known benefactor of South Florida Community College. He helped to fund classes and donated a 17,000 square foot building, which had formerly housed a tractor sales and service building. The school converted the structure to a facility for training students to drive large tractor trailers.
C. Elton Crews died in 2004, exactly four weeks after he had been inducted to the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame.