BARTOW, Fla. (December 3, 2020) – The Selection Committee for The Florida Citrus Hall of Fame has announced four distinguished leaders who will be inducted into the Hall during the 58th Citrus Celebration Luncheon tentatively scheduled for Friday, November 5, 2021 at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.
John L. Jackson, of Sorrento, Fla., Lew J. Prosser (deceased), formerly of Plant City, Fla., Adam H. Putnam, of Memphis, Tenn. and Steven D. “Steve” Sorrells, of Arcadia, Fla. will be honored at the luncheon, which has been moved to the fall of 2021 due to the pandemic.
John Jackson was inducted to the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame last year and has led a distinguished career as a County Extension Agent IV (Professor) for almost 40 years before heading up the Florida Citrus Industry Research Coordinating Council, which was responsible for determining citrus industry research priorities and projects. During his citrus career, he was responsible for such innovations as Florida’s Automated Weather Network (FAWN) and Water Conserv II, encouraging citrus producers to use reclaimed water for irrigation. He established the Mid-Florida Citrus Foundation (MFCF) as the research arm of the effort and served as the MFCF manager for more than 20 years. Jackson is the only extension agent in Florida ever to have been recognized twice with the United States Department of Agriculture’s distinguished Award of Superior Service: one for his work with reclaimed water, the other for his work with FAWN. Some of Jackson’s other noteworthy accomplishments include the establishment of an annual equipment operator’s school, now known as Farm Safety Day; the Central Florida 4-H Citrus Project, which over a 20-year period engaged more than 2,000 middle and high school students in agriculture; and grower meetings for citrus producers. He was a member of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame for over 40 years, serving as Chairman from 2006 – 2019, leading the organization from certain bankruptcy to a partnership with Florida Southern College that now has an endowment of over $300,000 to help preserve and promote the heritage of the Florida citrus industry through an engaged learning program with fellowship students.
Lew Prosser (1899- 1996) began his career in the citrus industry in 1921, working for R.W. Burch, Inc., eventually assuming ownership in 1928.Two years later, he had become the third largest independent citrus shipper in Florida. He created the first farm production credit association in the Plant City area, sponsored by a forerunner to the Federal Production Credit Association, organized the first and only citrus canning plant in the area, Citrus Products Co., and created the Florida Mixed Car Company, which specialized in marketing mixed carlot shipments of citrus and produce on one rail car. He underwrote a three-year long case against the ICC in the mid-1930s that resulted in significant relief for produce growers and shippers by requiring express companies to provide full refrigerated car service for produce at reduced rates. The landmark ruling resulted in increased shipments of produce from Plant City, eventually paving the way for the state’s largest farmers market. He traveled extensively with Dr. A.F. Camp to research citrus production practices in other countries, which resulted in the development of two patents that became widely used throughout the state: the use of the trisodium phosphate bath, which retarded decay and eliminated the need for individually wrapping each piece of fruit and a color-added process to improve fruit appearance. Known as Plant City’s “Quiet Entrepreneur,” Prosser was the author of Early History of the Produce Industry in Plant City and passed away in 1996 at the age of 97.
Adam Putnam is a fifth-generation Floridian and third-generation farmer whose public service career began with serving in the Florida House of Representatives from 1996 to 2000, followed with his election to the United States House of Representatives for five terms. He served as the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture during the past two decades and there has been no other Floridian who has done more on multiple levels to assist and protect the Florida citrus industry. During his tenure, he assisted and coordinated virtually every political aspect of the Florida citrus industry’s needs to preserve and protect the industry – helping to obtain much needed funding to combat a variety of problems over the years such as canker, hurricanes and citrus greening. He has provided leadership on Food Safety laws, water issues, government transparency, the preservation of the Florida Everglades, and created the “Fresh from Florida” campaign to raise awareness and access to fresh fruits and vegetables from Florida. His efforts in maintaining international market access for Florida citrus trade during his tenure helped keep export markets viable and his leadership in recovery efforts after the hurricanes in 2004 helped farmers get back on their feet. Well-known throughout the landscape of agriculture, Putnam’s contribution to the Florida citrus industry and the face of agriculture is far-reaching and still reflective in the state’s programs today. Currently the CEO of Ducks Unlimited, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., Putnam owns Putnam Groves Inc., a family-owned and operated citrus farm and cattle ranch located in Central Florida.
Steve Sorrells has been a giant in the Florida citrus industry for over 47 years, growing a family business from 400 acres in 1972 to its current production of 5,500 acres. One of his biggest contributions to the industry was being the first grower to utilize the U.S. Department of Labor’s H-2A visa program to obtain labor to harvest citrus more than 20 years ago, helping promote the program to other growers and making it a common practice that has modernized the industry’s labor force and state regulations. Sorrells has been a tireless advocate on improving the program for the benefit of growers and labor alike. He has served on numerous industry boards and organizations and is the only two-time president of Florida Citrus Mutual, where he led the industry through the tariff and anti-dumping battles with Brazil. Sorrells chaired the Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee, which directed the industry strategy on how to preserve the tariff on imported OJ while also making sure that exporters were playing by the rules. The period was a huge transition era for the industry and his leadership was a key component to its success. An innovator in production, Sorrells served as chairman of the original Florida Citrus Production Research Advisory Council (FCPRAC) and has embraced new technology and practices in rehabilitating groves that could soon become industry standards. A 20-year member of the board for Orange Growers Marketing Association (OGMA), he has helped maintain their position as Florida’s Natural Growers’ largest fruit supplier and is one of the most highly respected advocates of the industry today.
The Florida Citrus Hall of Fame honors distinguished leaders who have made significant contributions to the Florida citrus industry. The Citrus Hall of Fame display and Archives Center is located within the Sarah D. and L. Kirk McKay, Jr. Archives Center building at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. For more information on members of the Citrus Hall of Fame, visit the web site at www.FloridaCitrusHallofFame.com, which includes access to biographies and photos on all members, noting their accomplishments, as well as numerous Oral History Videos with longtime industry members.
Tickets to the luncheon, which is co-sponsored by Florida Citrus Mutual and The Florida Department of Citrus, are $100 for Patron Seating or $1,500 for a Sponsor Table, which includes preferred seating for 8, table signage and a listing in the program. The event will be followed by the Florida Citrus Processors’ Association’s OJ “Meet & Greet” with the inductees as they unveil their names on the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame Tree, located in the Sara D. and L. Kirk McKay Archives Center. A portion of the proceeds from all ticket sales will go to fund an Educational Outreach program to help promote the history of the Florida citrus industry.
To purchase tickets, please call Florida Citrus Mutual at (863) 682-1111 or visit the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame website at www.FloridaCitrusHallofFame.com. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, please contact Brenda Eubanks Burnette at (561) 351-4314 or via email at [email protected].